Calls For Industrial Manslaughter Laws Intensify After Mine Tragedy

Published August 27, 2019 (last updated July 17, 2020) -

Northern Territory-based unions are calling for industrial manslaughter laws after a man was killed in tragic wall collapse.

The 59-year-old man was fatally injured when a wall at the Bootu Creek mine, 110km north of Tennant Creek fell on him late on Saturday afternoon.

In a statement confirming the death, the mine’s operator said they were “deeply saddened” by the death.

“To all his family, friends and work colleagues [we] extend [our] sincerest condolences.

“All operations at the mine were halted, subsequently certain operations have re-started. All employees are offered access to counselling services.”

Unions NT, saying that workplace culture needs a “revamp”, are proposing that manslaughter laws be introduced into the NT.

“To improve safety, I think we’re going to have to have a revamp of the culture and the way we approach safety,” Unions NT general secretary Joel Bowden said.

“We believe there needs to be more inspectorates out and about… to change the safety culture in the NT.

Bowden believes there’s a need for the NT government to implement industrial manslaughter laws. These laws “will put the onus back on the company and have a lot of impact we think across the broader safety culture in companies”, he said.

Calls for industrial manslaughter laws come in the wake of the WA Government’s proposed legislation, made public last weekend. The laws will seek to up the maximum penalties for business operators who contribute to the death of employees to 20-year jail sentences or fines of $10 million.

The miners’ union is saying that past and present workers at the mine had raised safety concerns that an incident like the one that killed the miner would occur.

NT organiser Kane Louth said the CFMMEU would seek an urgent meeting with NT WorkSafe after the investigation at the mine has concluded, adding that the union was petitioning the territory government to ensure that safety of workers was priority on the mines.

“I’m not happy with what’s occurring here in the Territory; Territory workers are three times more likely to die at work than anywhere else in the country, and that’s a disgraceful record to have,” he said.

“Making sure safety is the focus of what gone on at the work site and it’s not all about production and profit.

“They’re (the workers) making allegations that similar slips have occurred recently, not dissimilar to the one that occurred on Saturday that took this gentleman’s life,” he said.

“If that’s the case we want to know one, what the company’s done, and what the NT WorkSafe has done to make that right.”

According to the NT’s Primary Industry and Resources Minister, Paul Kirby, the mine was directed to stop operations immediately.

“The incident at Bootu Creek Mine is an absolute tragedy and my thoughts go to all the workers at the site and the families involved,” Kirby said.

“Territorians have the right to go to work and return safely to their families.”

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