January 30, 2007
Mine safety conviction shows need for check inspectors
The conviction of the Black River Mining company for unsafe work practices causing death further confirms the urgent need for mine check inspectors says the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.
Black River Miner Robert McGowan was killed in 2006 when his underground mining crew hit an old flooded mine shaft – a tragedy that could have been avoided if proper health and safety procedures were in place.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little says yesterday’s ruling adds further weight to the EPMU’s call for the reinstatement of mandatory check inspectors.
“Mining is a dangerous job and employers have an obligation to ensure the safety of their staff is paramount. That means providing check inspectors to make sure no one goes underground without the right training and equipment.
“The need for this type of safety measure is even more important in the smaller private mines where sometimes even the mine owners are not fully aware of the risks associated with underground mining.
“Check inspectors are not a new idea. Until 1992 these positions were required by regulation and they still exist in the UK and Australia as a proven way of significantly increasing worker safety.
“The tragedy is that Robert McGowan’s death might have been avoided if check inspectors were in place. The EPMU fully supports Valma McGowan’s campaign to improve mine safety.”
The EPMU represents nearly all of New Zealand’s 1000 miners.