Daunia Mine operations in central Queensland. Picture: BHP coal mining coal mine
Daunia Mine operations in central Queensland. Picture: BHP coal mining coal mine

Mines flouting social distancing and hygiene, union claims

A MINERS' union has accused companies of flouting social distancing and hygiene guidelines during the Covid-19 pandemic under "production-driven" work environments.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland district president Stephen Smyth said he had received several complaints about workers being trained on equipment without social distancing being followed, and a lack of hygiene measures on equipment used by several operators.

"We're seeing mining companies - particularly in the open cut sector - continue to in our view, put workers at risk by wanting people to train within a square metre in cabs of trucks," Mr Smyth said.

"Then further afield, we have people hot seat changing pieces of equipment, so multiple people are in and out of equipment that is not being cleaned in-between."

He said workers were "terrified" to raise concerns with management over fears they would be sacked.

Mr Smyth said most reports had come from BHP Mitsubishi Alliance's Daunia and Caval Ridge mines in Central Queensland.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland District president Stephen Smyth.
CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland District president Stephen Smyth.

He said the issues had also been reported at the Thiess Sonoma Mine in Collinsville and Glencore's Clermont and Newlands mines.

Glencore declined to comment, while spokespersons for BMA and Thiess said strict social distancing and hygiene measures were in place across all sites.

It is understood that hot-seating at BMA mines had been adjusted to include up to 10 minutes delay between changeovers to allow for cleaning.

Hot seat changeover is where the driver of a vehicle vacates at the end of a shift and is replaced immediately with another worker.

A BHP spokesman said the health and safety of its workforce was its number one priority. "We have increased the level of cleaning across our sites, including cleaning equipment between shifts and providing additional sanitisation supplies in equipment and vehicles," the spokesman said.

"We are proud of how the BMA workforce has implemented proper social distancing, hand hygiene and equipment sanitisation procedures before and after use."

A BMA worker bus at a Moranbah mine site, showing social distancing measures in place.
A BMA worker bus at a Moranbah mine site, showing social distancing measures in place.

In a statement, Thiess said it had adopted an approach to the pandemic informed by guidance from governments and health agencies.

"In each of our regions, across our offices, sites and villages, our teams are implementing local action response plans including rigorous preventative infection control and social distancing measures," it said.

A Queensland Mines Inspectorate spokesman said it had only received one complaint on hot seating from a third party.

"QMI's investigation found the safety procedures in place were satisfactory and the complaint was closed out to the satisfaction of the complainant," he said.

Mr Smyth has called for a training halt and a reduction in the number of equipment operators on each machine until social distancing requirements have eased.



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