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Improvements to mine safety overdue - Greens

Improvements to mine safety overdue

Underground mine safety must be dealt with immediately post-election by the next Government, West Coast-based Green Party MP Kevin Hague said today.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the tragedy of Pike River this week painted a graphic picture of ineffective or non-existent mine safety systems, regulations that permitted dangerous practise, and an inspectorate that was under-resourced and ineffective.

"The second egress from the mine was effectively impossible to use, yet apparently met regulatory requirements," said Mr Hague.

"Every day people go to work in mines where they rely on current regulations to maintain their safety. It is completely immoral to not move with all possible urgency to upgrade safety requirements that are inadequate.

"Any future Government must commit to a process as soon as practicable after the election to improve mine safety.

"This process must involve consultation with trade unions, mining industry representatives and political parties to make urgent recommendations on immediate improvements to mine safety."

Mr Hague also said that urgent overhaul of the regulatory framework is required, and improvements cannot wait until the Royal Commission reports.

"The current Government says it can't do anything until the Royal Commission reports, but this means that they have been prepared to force workers to take the risk associated with those failed requirements."

Mr Hague earlier this year welcomed the Government creating a High Hazards Unit (HHU) with more resources, but is concerned at a lack of progress since the announcement of the HHU

"The complete absence of visible progress in constituting the new Unit, several months on from its announcement, suggests either a lack of political urgency or an unwillingness to resource the new Unit to the level required," Mr Hague said.

Note: Mr Hague will be attending the Royal Commission today.

Five suggestions for how to improve mine safety

1. Safety design must be improved. Regulate for mine inspectors to have input into mine design.

2. Safety Systems should be required to be signed off by the Department of labour. ('safety case' )

3. A Tube Bundling system of gas monitoring should be required in regulation. If tube bundling was at Pike, not only would gas monitoring have been improved but, there would have been more information about the atmospheric conditions inside the mine immediately after the explosion better enabling mines rescue during
that possible 'window' after the explosion.

4. Change of policy at the Department of Labour - proactive inspections, enforcement and deterrence should be encouraged for high risk industry.

5. Equal/proportionate representation of workers and business on Mines Steering Group - to stop industry domination.

Authorised by Kevin Hague, Parliament Buildings, Wellington
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