Following the tragic death of 49-year-old mineworker Allan Houston at BHP Coal’s Saraji mine on 31st December 2018 in Central Queensland, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has called on BHP to trigger a safety ‘reset’ across all of BHP’s regional coal mines.
BHP confirmed that an incident occurred at approximately 10pm where the dozer Mr Houston was operating rolled from an elevated position.
Directly following the incident, the site Emergency Response Team was activated, and appropriate authorities were engaged.
In their response, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance said that the welfare of the family of the deceased and the safety of their workers remain their highest priorities.
However, on Friday 4 January, CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President, Stephen Smyth said the Union is concerned that safety incidents on BHP mines are not leading to an adequate review of operating procedures, neither at the site of the incident nor across BHP’s network of mines.
“BHP has thousands of lives in its hands every day across its Central Queensland coal mines,” said Mr Smyth.
“We are aware that Allan’s death has followed a number of near misses. In the wake of this week’s shocking fatality, workers are looking for greater reassurance that the company’s rhetoric about safety is being matched by action,” he added.
Some of the vehicle rollovers at BHP mine sites over the past year, similar in nature to the incident that caused Mr Houston’s death, include a similar incident which occurred approximately 12 months beforehand at Peak Downs and two other vehicle rollovers at Saraji in the three months prior.
The CFMEU has stated they are seeking more information from BHP regarding emergency response capability, access and egress into work areas and a review of dozer operations.
“This is an opportunity to review and reset the whole safety culture on BHP sites. That includes not only the way we work but the treatment of workers who raise safety issues and make compensation claims,” said Mr Smyth.
The Queensland Mines Inspectorate is also investigating the incident at Saraji and will soon issue a Safety Notice to all Queensland coal mines to help reduce the risk of similar incidents occurring in the future.
As of writing, operations at Saraji have now returned to normal.