Hundreds of delegates have gathered on the Gold Coast today as the Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference 2016 kicks off.
Straight from the get-go, the theme of the event has been made very clear: a past forgotten is a future repeated.
Conference chair Greg Dalliston welcomed delegates, and said the theme couldn’t be more appropriate.
“The Queensland mining industry had no fatalities for the 2015/16 financial year, first time on record since it’s been recorded back in about 1880s,” Mr Dalliston said.
“But we can’t take our eye off what has happened – the return of Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis for the first time in over 60 years.
“I think we have all let each other down, and we have definitely let down those people who are suffering and their families.
“So, while we didn’t have any fatalities then, those people are going to die from that disease. So, we need to make sure we all work together to stop that from happening further.
“We took our minds off the smaller issues, and they have come back to bite us pretty hard.”
Mining Minister Dr Anthony Lynham officially opened the conference, echoing the same message Mr Dalliston shared earlier.
“This year’s theme is particularly relevant to our major issue in the coal industry, and that is the re-emergence of Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis,” Dr Lynham said.
“While I acknowledge this is coal industry occupational health issue, it’s re-emergence after 30 years has certainly been a reminder to all of us to remain vigilant.
Mr Lynham said the government will be implementing all 18 recommendations that were released in the independent review into Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis.
“Every worker has a right to go to work and return home to their family safe and healthy and I am committed to ridding Queensland of this disease,” he said.
“Miners diagnosed with CWP, including retired miners, can rely on workers’ compensation safety net, provided by WorkCover Queensland.
“I hope this issue has served as a reminder to all of us that the ongoing monitoring of safety and health systems and procedures is critical. And this must keep pace with change in production methods and technology to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the men and women who work in our mines.”
Mr Lynham said while there were no deaths in the last 12 months, it was a “tough year for the mining and quarrying industry”.
“What I am about to say next, I say with both relief and trepidation – since this conference last year, we have had no mining related fatalities in Queensland,” Mr Lynham said.
“This result re-affirms the high profile of our safety efforts and the continued vigilance as a sector. And I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on this outcome.
“I say this with some trepidation, because among the 1800 high-potential incidents you reported last year, there were near-misses which were fortunate not to have ended in injury or fatality.”
The Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference continues tomorrow and Tuesday at Jupiter’s Casino at the Gold Coast.