MINE INQUIRY: Five things we know so far.
MINE INQUIRY: Five things we know so far.

MINE INQUIRY: 5 things we know so far

A CRITICAL inquiry into Queensland coal mining is entering its third week.

Mines Minister Anthony Lynham announced the Coal Mining Board of Inquiry in the wake of the Grosvenor mine disaster, which left five workers with horrific burns injuries.

Here are five key things we have learnt from it so far:

Mines warned before 'unannounced' safety visits

Mine sites are being told when an unannounced visit from the Mines Inspectorate will be happening.

Site safety and health representatives are given two to three days' - sometimes a week's - notice of upcoming Mines Inspectorate visits that are documented as unannounced inspections.

Oaky North SSHR Joe Barber, in his sworn affidavit to the inquiry listed a number of items he believed could promote a culture of safety within the coal mining sector.

High on the list was: "I believe there should be unannounced inspections conducted by both the ISHRs and the Inspectorate".

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INQUIRY: Mine sites told when unannounced inspections will be happening.
INQUIRY: Mine sites told when unannounced inspections will be happening.

Inspectorate under fire for failure to share safety records

The person responsible for overseeing safety and health at Queensland coal mines has been accused of failing to share safety information with industry safety and health representatives.

The inquiry heard ISHRs had been removed from the Mines Inspectorate's email distribution list of mine record entries, which inform the outcome of a mine inspection.

The role of an ISHR is to represent coal mine workers on safety and health matters.

The inquiry heard regional mines inspector Stephen Smith sent an email in February 2020 stating ISHRs and other company representatives would no longer be included in the email distribution.

Chief inspector of coal mines Peter Newman said he gave this instruction to Mr Smith because he understood it was the inspectorate's legal obligation to only distribute the mine record entry to the site senior executive and operator for confidentiality reasons.

Chief inspector of coal mines Peter Newman.
Chief inspector of coal mines Peter Newman.

Plan to establish mine death unit in Queensland

Resources Safety and Health Queensland will set up a dedicated mine death investigation unit as the industry grapples with a spate of fatalities over the past 18 months.

In his statutory declaration to the inquiry, chief inspector of coal mines Peter Newman said the unit would be established by 2022.

Known as the Serious Accident Investigation Unit, it would comprise specialised inspectors and an investigation officer to probe all fatalities and serious accidents in the coal mining industry.

The unit would be a single point of contact for serious accidents, while regional inspectors would continue to manage high potential incident investigations.

Contractors fear getting the sack at mines

Contractors cut safety corners when they are under pressure to deliver projects quicker and they are reluctant to raise concerns for fear of losing their jobs.

The claims came from experienced mine deputy Richard Harris under questioning at the Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry.

He said he had witnessed both behaviours during his career.

Mr Harris said non-permanent workers, such as contractors and labour hires, were less likely to raise safety concerns than those the mining companies employed directly.

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Harry Bruce's take on the 'she'll be right, mate' safety culture at mine sites.
Harry Bruce's take on the 'she'll be right, mate' safety culture at mine sites.

Coal bonuses breed 'she'll be right' attitude to safety

Safety concerns are being brushed aside at mine sites as workers strive to reach coal production targets and bonuses.

Workers are also failing to learn and follow the extensive regulations as they adopt a "bull at a gate" mentality to production.

The explosive claims were from Oaky North site safety and health representative Joe Barber at the Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry this week.

Mr Barber told the inquiry he believed workers not knowing the regulations was an issue, and suggested more active training was needed.

Public hearings as part of the Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry continue in Brisbane today.