Allan Houston and his daughter Cassie. Alan died in a mine accident at Saraji mine on December 31, 2018.
Allan Houston and his daughter Cassie. Alan died in a mine accident at Saraji mine on December 31, 2018. Contributed

CFMEU boss raises safety concerns after tragic mine death

CONCERN that incidents at BHP mines have not led to adequate reviews of operating procedures have been raised as local communities cope with the loss of a well-loved Gracemere father.

CFMEU president Stephen Smyth highlighted a pattern of similar accidents at BHP mines and called for the company to rethink its safety procedures and responses, which have been dubbed a "bloody joke" by one BHP mine worker.

The outcry comes after the death of Allan Houston, who was operating a dozer at the Saraji Open Cut Coal Mine on New Year's Eve.

"We are concerned that safety incidents on BHP mines are not leading to an adequate review of operating procedures, neither at the site the incident occurred nor across BHP's network of mines," Mr Smyth said.

"Allan's death has followed a number of near-misses. BHP has thousands of lives in its hands every day across its central Queensland coal mines.

"Workers are looking for greater reassurance that the company rhetoric about safety is being matched by action."

Some vocal employees are seething about the company's alleged response to the death.

These employees have told CFMEU of their dissatisfaction with management's response that they say did not reflect the seriousness of the event or the concerns of workers.

"Another worker killed on a BMA (BHP Mitsubishi Alliance) site in 15 months and they just do a two-minute pre-start in the main room with everyone. No whole-crew safety reset with senior management, bloody joke," one worker told the CFMEU.

Mr Smyth said Mr Houston's death "will not be in vain" and the CFMEU was pushing for change on a company level.

A CFMEU spokeswoman mentioned an eerily similar accident at Peak Downs less than six months ago.

She described an incident where a worker operating a dozer fell into a deep hole, which he was allegedly not warned about.

"He had very cold water up to his shoulders, could not get out and was trapped there in the dark for over half an hour, until workmates were able to rescue him. He thought he was going to die," she said.

There was another incident about a year before, also at Peak Downs, and three trucks that rolled over at Saraji last year, the CFMEU claims.

In response to the outcry, a BHP spokesman said safety was the company's highest priority at all mine sites.

"We will not be speculating on the incident until the results are known. To do so would be disrespectful to Allan Houston, his family and colleagues," he said.

"The circumstances that led to the tragedy are now part of formal investigations being undertaken by the regulators including the police and mines inspectorate. In addition, we have initiated our own internal investigation.

"BMA has a track record of transparently sharing findings and lessons learned, which we are committed to in relation to the incident that occurred at Saraji Mine on December 31."