Natural Resources and Mines Minister and Hinchinbrook MP Andrew Cripps Photo: Greg Miller / Sunshine Coast Daily.
Natural Resources and Mines Minister and Hinchinbrook MP Andrew Cripps Photo: Greg Miller / Sunshine Coast Daily. Greg Miller

Qld Mines Minister blames industry accidents on 'stupidity'

GREENSKIN or new workers in the mining industry have copped the blame for a spike in injuries in the past 12 months, with Mines Minister Andrew Cripps warning sometimes "you cannot account for stupidity".

He made the quip as the Opposition attempted to link safety statistics to a redundancy package given to a marketing worker in the department.

Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health Stewart Bell and Mr Cripps faced questions during a Department of Mining estimates hearing, which often centred on the Queensland Mines Inspectorate's annual report for the most recent financial year.

The report found in 2010-11, 851 workers across all sectors including quarries and gas projects suffered "lost time injuries and disabling injuries".

It increased by more than 23% to 1047 in 2011-12.

A key indicator in workplace health was judged on the amount of injuries per million hours worked.

In 2011-12, this was 6.8, up from 4.2 the year before.

"This is a large increase and a cause for serious concern," Commissioner Bell said.

The minister said one improvement in the figures was that these were less severe and the number of fatalities fell in 2012 from three to one.

The paper also found more workers and mines were reporting dangerous activity or near-misses which ensured more transparency.

Mr Bell spent part of 2012 working as a commissioner on the Royal Commission into the Pike River mine disaster that killed 29 in late 2010.

He said he had seen the kind of "unbelievable" behaviour in Queensland mines that could deliver those horrors to our industry.

He said some miners disabled underground methane monitors by either turning them off or putting plastic bags over them and that was not all.

"We caught a person smoking underground in a coal mine which is something unheard of; it's almost unbelievable," he said.

"The concerns that I have is that these incidents could be a pre-cursor to a mine explosion."

Mr Bell said in his work on the Pike River Commission he saw examples of a similar behaviour and a consequence he did not want repeated in Queensland.

Both the commissioner and minister said less experience workers - which grew the industry from 39,000 in 2009 to 58,000 in 2012, sometimes struggled with safety rules.

"There's no doubt that the increase in new miners, or greenskins as they're known, is a factor here," Mr Bell said.

"A lot of these people don't know what they don't know - they don't realise the risks."

Both Mr Bell and Mr Cripps conceded the figures were a concern, with Mr Bell explaining staff from the mines inspectorate - which is a government arm focused on safety - had already met with resource firms to "express dissatisfaction".

Mr Cripps said Queensland still led the world in mine safety but vigilance was important to ensure workers came home safely to their families.