Minegraft

This is an interesting illustration of where priorities lie:

The Queensland Government has called for mining company CEOs and union representatives to attend an urgent safety forum this Wednesday after the death of another mining worker.

On Sunday 27-year-old Jack Gerdes suffered fatal head injuries at the Baralaba North coal mine, west of Gladstone.

He was found “entangled in an excavator access ladder” about 2:00am, the Department of Mines and Energy said.

Six hours later, another man in his 50s was seriously injured in fall at a mine in Collinsville in the Bowen Basin.

The death takes the fatality total to six over the last year — making it the worst year for mining deaths since 1997.

If you’re in the developed world (i.e. equipment and work methods are modern) and you’re having an unacceptable number of workplace accidents there are two things you need to improve: training and supervision. When my outfit in Russia was having a lot of minor injuries and near misses to do with scaffolding back in 2006, they stepped up the training and awareness (with a focus on the daily toolbox talks) and increased the number of supervisors. As a result, the safety statistics improved. This is what needs to happen in these Queensland mines. However:

Shortly before the State Government headed into crisis talks this afternoon, it was revealed a mining safety committee has been idle for six months because it could not reach a gender quota — during which time four miners have died.

This situation is laughable, but the absence of some taxpayer funded talking shop is not the cause of the accidents. What it does tell you, though, is how the government views workplace safety and what it chooses to prioritise. It’s also a tacit admission that this committee isn’t really concerned with safety. If it were, it would have met regardless of the gender quota.

Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian Macfarlane said it nominated two female candidates for the committee six months ago, but they were knocked back by the Government.

I can’t even begin to imagine how bad a blatant diversity hire would have to be to get knocked back for inclusion on a state-level safety committee. Then again, maybe something else is going on here which I can’t see. But I found this LinkedIn post interesting:

I’m not sure who Penelope Twemlow is but she seems to have made a decent career from simply being a woman “in business”, and her LinkedIn profile reads as though an algorithm trawled a year’s worth of Accenture presentations and spat out the most commonly found words. Although to be fair she has been a principle health and safety consultant for a whole four months, which is presumably why she’s weighing in on this.

What seems pretty clear is she doesn’t know a lot about mining, which is why she’s so confident there are “plenty of incredible women” working in the industry. What she thinks makes a woman “incredible” are probably those attributes she likes most in herself, i.e. staggering levels of self-belief, ambition, and self-promotion, but these likely differ from what those who run mines want when they’re looking for a safety rep. There will be some decent women in the Australian mining industry, but there won’t be “plenty” and the ones who are genuinely good won’t want to sit on some pointless government committee. However, you can be sure that Penelope Twemlow knows a few hundred women who would love such a tenure and all think they’re incredibly brilliant. Hey, some of them might even know the difference between a coal mine and a land mine. But what they really need is some decent on-site supervisors and safety training.

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2 thoughts on “Minegraft

  1. I know a good firm that can supply some assistance to help the miners to get over this safety hump.

    By the way Ian Macfarlane is a pretty solid guy and I doubt anyone would say different of his character.

    Some big things going down in the Queensland mining sector, the state government look like they are out on their arse at the next election and then there is the outlaw CFMEU union. Coupled with the US Sino trade war, thermal coal price dropping and coking coal price slightly elevated. A new thermal coal mine for Adani in India having just been approved with huge anti-mine activism happening as well.

    The poor old miners need a hand.

    Which all bodes well for good consulting firms targeting Queensland mines, which for those that are not aware are mostly open cut coal for both thermal and coking coal.

  2. I did the gender-swap thing and was wondering what the reaction would likely be to several high profile deaths in a female-dominated industry. Then I remembered that the terrible Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire changed the landscape of American industry and led to widespread unionization and the accelerated improvement of workplace standards, as well as permanently cementing government as the arbiter of said standards. Thus I had my answer.

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