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Date PostedMay 14, 2014

Another Reason to Prioritise Worker Safety

As if we need any more motivation to prioritise safety, a recent study has proven companies that fail to meet high safety standards for their employees risk a potential shareholder backlash.

According to research by one of Australia’s largest investment research firms, mining companies need to prioritise safety or it could negatively affect their commercial success.

This revelation comes shortly after the death of 2 miners at the Austar Coal Mine in Hunter Valley after a wall collapsed at the coalmine near Paxton.

According to Citigroup Australia and New Zealand, one of the largest investment research firms in the country, “company safety records and reputation” are increasingly being scrutinised by shareholders and are playing a big role in the success of a company. The company’s managing director and head of research Bruce Rolph reiterated that research showed that companies are being scrutinized more closely on their safety history, even more reason why safety should always play the most important role on any work site. Companies now have no choice but to ensure all employees are properly trained on safety or risk losing financially.

According to the company’s research, 427 employees have been killed in industrial accidents since 2005 and most of these have been within the mining industry. In fact the number killed rose to 523 when members of the public who were killed was also taken into account.

The report took into consideration, as it has since 2009, data on 117 top companies from the most dangerous industries including mining, engineering and construction.

Mr Rolph went on to reiterate that the public are increasingly demanding that companies be held accountable for poor safety. Citigroup’s latest report highlighted these companies in particular because more than 10 deaths had occurred at these companies’ premises since 2005:

  • Leighton Holdings,
  • Lend Lease, Rio Tinto,
  • Orica,
  • Coca-Cola Amatil,
  • Newcrest Mining,
  • BHP Billiton,
  • Boral,
  • Aquarius Platinum,
  • Toll Holdings and
  • Transfield Services

Not surprisingly Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton had the worst safety record with 48 and 45 employee fatalities occurring respectively.

In the construction sector, Leighton lost the most number of workers – 41 and Lend Lease followed extremely closely with 40 employees killed on the job. Considering that these are just 2 of a number of construction companies, the number of fatalities is extremely alarming.

From these figures it is obvious why according to federal law anyone working in mining construction or just general construction of any sort has to first obtain their White Card safety accreditation. It is one of the only tools we have to fight the high number of worker fatalities in these fields.

But the news isn’t all bad as the research company cites a drop in the rate of injuries in the sector.

While there have been numerous deaths since 2005, the good news is that Citi Groups analysis also shows a decline in the number of accidents, fatalities and working hours lost due to injury over the last few years.

In fact in the last year there were 50 companies, out of 78 that reported a decline in lost time to injury rates and 31 companies reported a decline in the injury frequency rate.

The CFMEU welcomed news that the industry was improving its safety act and that shareholders and investors were taking a more pro-active approach when it comes to holding companies’ accountable for their safety record. However even one worker injured is one too many.

People are putting their lives on the line everyday just to make a living to support their families, which is unacceptable. Companies need to understand that workers are more than just a number, but a human being with a family and a life – this is precisely what stakeholders are forcing companies to understand in terms they understand, money.

Safety particularly in these sectors starts with knowledge. Workers cannot be expected to work in a safe manner, that enhances the health and safety of their co-workers if they aren’t aware of the hazards and correct safety procedures relevant to their sites. That is precisely why the White Card is so valuable because it teaches them the basic safety skills needed to ensure they know how to conduct themselves safely on a construction site in general.

In addition to teaching workers what to expect and what their rights are, the white card is also legally mandated by the federal government. Because it is nationally valid workers only need to complete one course to gain access to construction sites for work in any state or territory anywhere in Oz, also enhancing safety by promoting uniform safety controls and measures across all sites.

Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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