27 September 2022

Coal workers deal improves safety after Grosvenor mine disaster in 2020

Coal workers employed in critical safety roles at the Grosvenor mine near Moranbah, Queensland have reached an enterprise agreement with Anglo American, which includes important provisions that will strengthen workplace health and safety.

The Deputies are employed at the Grosvenor underground coal mine where a methane explosion occurred in May 2020, critically injuring five workers.

Collieries’ Staff and Officials Association (CSOA) Queensland official Zac Gallagher welcomed the finalisation of the agreement and said it locked in important measures that would be critical to health and safety at the mine.

“We welcome this new agreement at the Grosvenor mine which includes provisions such as the introduction of critical incident leave, improved consultation surrounding safety, removal of casual employment and the reinforcement of Deputies roles and obligations as safety leaders.”

Mr Gallagher said that while it’s been a hard road for all workers at the mine, agreements such as this were a step in the right direction.

“The workers who are subject to this agreement were directly involved in the first response to the explosion in 2020, as well as recovery efforts at the mine.

On 6 May 2020, production was halted at the Grosvenor underground mine due to a major methane explosion which critically injured five workers.

In response, a Queensland Government inquiry into potential safety breaches and regulatory mismanagement found that the gas emissions being generated by the mine's rate of production were in excess of the capacity of the mine's gas drainage system.

While Anglo American escaped prosecution, multiple recommendations were put forward with implications for the entire coal sector in the state.

“Deputies are some of most experienced workers within the coal sector, and it’s essential that their roles are dedicated to their safety obligations and the job security that comes with permanent employment is a key factor in this.”

“Workers under the new enterprise agreement are statutorily appointed, meaning they have a legal obligation and workplace responsibility under the Coal Mining Health & Safety Act to facilitate the safe operation of the mine.

“This responsibility also entails a level personal risk, with their decision-making often being reviewed in the event of a safety incident and they often act as first responders to major incidents.

“Having secure work, avenues to raise concerns and clear employment guidelines allows these employees to focus on the important task of ensuring the safety of their colleagues and the operation of the mine.

Mr Gallagher said that despite this positive step, there were still concerns about the adversarial nature of employment relations within the coal industry, and the attitude of coal mine operators toward employees who are critical to the safe operation of mines such as the Deputies.

“The use of multiple employing entities, labour hire and rolling fixed term arrangements to undercut entitlements and wage growth makes it hard to attract, train and retain experienced staff.

“It’s critical that mines maintain a consistent workforce, as each mine has its own unique environmental and workplace challenges and often its time on the job that makes all the difference.

The Queensland Government has previously acknowledged the link between permanent employment and improved safety outcomes and brought forward amendments to the legislation governing the coal sector to mandate permanent employment of statutory staff. This was later postponed due to pushback by major employers within the sector.

Media Contact: Darren Rodrigo – 0414783405