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Northern Mining & NSW Energy

NSW South Western




Western Australia

Pressure for production leading to accidents

November 20, 2019

Constant pressure on mineworkers to meet production targets is contributing to accidents on mine sites, a national forum of safety inspectors from across the Division has heard.

Northern Mining and NSW Energy District ISHR Tony Watson said there had been a string of truck and light vehicle accidents and rollovers across the district in recent months. There were a range of factors including fatigue and poor visibility, but in many cases vehicles were simply travelling too fast for the conditions.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to stick to speed limits, drive according to the conditions and stop if they feel unsafe,” said Tony Watson.

“At the same time, operators are under more pressure than ever to meet production targets. What we are hearing is that workers have supervisors on their backs if they slow down or pause for any length of time.

“That is creating a culture where operators feel they have to cut corners in order to keep up, sometimes with very serious consequences.”

He said vehicle accidents were more likely to involve labour hire than permanent workers, reflecting their insecure position in the workplace and the difficulties they face in refusing unreasonable requests.

Other issues discussed at this week’s forum, which included representatives from every District, included:

  • Fatigue due to rosters and shift lengths, as well as technology being introduced at some sites to monitor and manage fatigue.
  • Mines using dispatch or control rooms off site, impacting on immediacy and appropriateness of response.
  • Dust levels and respiratory disease.
  • Management of ventilation standards in underground mines.
  • Skills, competence and attitudes of supervisors.
  • Non-compliance with emergency management plans.

While workplace health and safety legislation is state-based, regular collaboration between Districts allows the Union to monitor trends, develop education and training materials and identify issues of national concern.

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