||Issue No. 265||27 May 2005|
Hit and Myth
Interview: Fortress NSW
Unions: Fashions Afield
Industrial: Pay Dirt
Politics: Infrastructure Blues
History: Big Day Out
International: Making History
Economics: The Fear Factor
Review: The Robots Revolt
Poetry: The Corporation's Power
The Locker Room
One Hell Of A Job
US Fan Mail
Ugly Australian On Charges
As Western Australian authorities confirmed charges would be laid under the state's Mines, Safety and Inspection laws, it was revealed Australia's largest company had recorded a staggering 32 "near fatalities" since Wadley, and two other workers, lost their lives.
BHP Billiton documents, seen by Workers Online, show the company has identified 32 "potential level four incidents" in the past 10 months.
In BHP-speak, level four equates to a "near fatality".
"Potentially fatal incidents are continuing to occur across all of our operations," the company's document concedes.
"The number of potential level four incidents recorded at BHPB Iron Ore since July, 2004, is as follows: Port and Rail 16; Mining 16."
A source, with years of mining industry experience, said some of the level four incidents recorded had endangered the safety of multiple workers.
This week's charges stem from a lengthy inquiry, conducted by Perth solicitor Mark Ritter, that found BHP's safety procedures had been compromised by its industrial relations policy.
In a scathing report, Ritter fingered AWAs at the centre of John Howard's industrial relations agenda.
Ritter found BHP Billiton's drive to individual contracts was a "factor which has impacted and continues to impact on the successful implementation of safety systems".
The inquiry was launched at union insistence, following the deaths of three workers at BHP Pilbarra sites, in the space of a month.
AMWU delegate, Corey Bentley, lost his life at a Port Hedland iron facility, on May 2, 2004. Following his death, company reps removed posters exhorting employees to "aim high, move fast", and graphically illustrating how far they had fallen behind million-tonne production targets.
Wadley died when a gas explosion tore through the nearby Boodarie hot briquetted plant. Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft from Derby, Meetkatharra and Port Hedland were mobilised to transfer injured workers to hospitals.
On the same day, a 19-year-old apprentice had his head crushed at BHP's Ore Body 25, near Newman, by what the company described as "a piece of equipment".
AMWU state secretary, Jock Ferguson, welcomed the prosecutions and urged authorities to pursue them vigorously.
"This decision is vindication of Port Hedland workers who stood up and demanded an arms-length inquiry at a meeting we held up there, last year," Ferguson said.
"They wanted an inquiry because they believed BHP's production at all costs mentality was endangering their safety.
"Unfortunately, these charges are no help to James Wadley or his family. But, hopefully, they will encourage mining companies to start behaving responsibly.
"These employers have got to be made to understand that if they continue to treat safety in a cavalier manner, the law will come after them and make them pay."
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