Queensland’s Mining and Energy Union: mining corporations have neglected Covid-19 control measures

According to the Mining and Energy Union, as the highly contagious Omicron variety spreads throughout the Queensland coal industry, mining companies have fallen behind on Covid-19 control measures such as social distance and cleanliness and must make rapid adjustments to catch up soon as possible.

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Although the new variant has been introduced, mining companies have failed to update their risk management plans to account for it.  Many firms have abandoned most of the measures that were necessary earlier in the pandemic to ensure that Covid was kept out of mines, according to Queensland District President Stephen Smyth.  Despite this, mining companies have failed to update their risk management plans to account for the new variant.  Even while people are urged to be vaccinated to safeguard their health, it has become abundantly evident that mining firms cannot depend only on vaccination to ensure the safety of their employees on the job.

To ensure coal mine safety, a comprehensive set of Covid safety measures must be implemented, including screening via fast testing, social distance, the supply of N95 masks, and thorough cleaning.

A highly infectious variation is spreading across our industry and regions, although Covid’s safety controls have deteriorated rather than improved.  Many safety procedures are designed for corporate organizations rather than manufacturing ones.  It is ludicrous that people who have worked on a piece of equipment together for 10 hours are not regarded as close contacts in an office environment when they have worked for four hours as a team in an office setting.

Because of inconsistencies in the requirements and timing of testing, some employees cannot participate in tests because they are not available.  In contrast, others are expected to complete testing on their own time.  Unfortunately, the Royal Scottish Headquarters Mines Inspectorate is not taking the necessary steps to safeguard the safety of our coal mines.  This group has to take the initiative and begin holding mining firms accountable for having proper Covid safety protocols and putting them into action.

In the end, it will be mining corporations’ short-term emphasis on output at the expense of worker health and safety that will pose the greatest danger to production as an increasing number of mineworkers fall ill with Covid and are unable to report to work.  They must prioritize people before productivity in the face of a health crisis.  According to BHP, the reopening of the border would result in more access to labor.  Still, the miner cautions that it “may cause some short-term disruption to the working environment while the COVID-19 epidemic develops in the State.”

The firm lowered its full-year production forecast after reporting a decrease in metallurgical coal output.  The company attributed the reduction to La Nia-related rainy weather and virus-related labor shortages at its Queensland operations.  While this is happening, the Mining and Energy Union has accused mining businesses of failing to comply with COVID-19 control measures such as social distance and personal cleanliness.

The Mining and Energy Union does not accept employer vaccination requirements in the absence of public health regulations.  It is contesting BHP’s Site Access Requirement, which requires all employees to provide evidence of immunization by January 31st, as unconstitutional.  The Fair Work Commission is anticipated to make a ruling this coming week.

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