David Routledge with his grandchildren.
David Routledge with his grandchildren.

Workers flagged safety fears before Middlemount fatality

CFMEU safety representatives were due to visit the Middlemount Mine the day after Wednesday's fatal high wall collapse over previous safety concerns mine workers had raised, it has been revealed.

The Daily Mercury has also obtained a list of safety concerns flagged with Middlemount Coal and the CFMEU before Wednesday's fatal incident that caused the death of South Mackay father and grandfather David Routledge, 56.

Mr Routledge was trapped in an excavator for almost 12 hours after the wall collapse on Wednesday afternoon, according to the CFMEU.

It is understood Thursday's scheduled visit by the CFMEU to Middlemount Mine was for a routine safety inspection and to follow up on safety concerns that mine workers had previously raised.

The list of concerns sighted by the Daily Mercury included "supervisors more intent on production rather than having safe production", "the lack of lighting provided on night shift swing" and "not performing brake tests before leaving go lines".

Other issues raised were smoking outside the designated areas -including fuel fill-up points - a lack of shower facilities and meal breaks.

The Daily Mercury contacted Middlemount Coal for a response but it declined to comment.

Middlemount Coal CEO  Gerrie Jordaan later sent a statement saying safety was the company's highest priority.

"A full investigation is currently under way and we are cooperating fully with this process," he said.

"In the meantime, our focus remains on the welfare of David Routledge's family, friends and colleagues, and supporting them during this difficult time."

Middlemount Coal mine in Central Queensland.
Middlemount Coal mine in Central Queensland. Melanie Whiting

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth confirmed workers had raised safety issues at the Middlemount Mine but he said this was common across Queensland coal mines.

He also said there was a culture of fear in the mining industry over speaking up about safety issues in the workplace.

"If they speak up they get told, 'don't worry about coming back tomorrow' - the fear of losing your job is a big fear," Mr Smyth said.

"We really need to be empowering workers to stand up and speak out if it's not safe - that's a real issue."

Earlier this week, Mr Smyth also called for the industry to probe safety culture and practices, saying Mr Routledge's tragic death should serve as a "wake-up call".

"Workers must be empowered to stand up and speak out on safety matters without the fear of reprisal," he said.

 

As a mark of respect to killed Mackay miner David Routledge, mining industry workers have changed their Facebook profile photos to the above image.
As a mark of respect to killed Mackay miner David Routledge, mining industry workers have changed their Facebook profile photos to the above image. Facebook

Shadow Mines Minister Dale Last said the health and safety of mine workers must be prioritised.

"Any watering down of safety standards or procedures should not be tolerated," Mr Last said.

"If there's any evidence of breaches, then I will expect the full brunt of the law to come down on that company or contractor."

Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the State Government would do everything in its power to "prevent another tragedy".

"My office is working with the Mines Inspectorate and the Department to determine the best means by which we can do that," he said.

"I once again offer my deepest sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr Routledge, who can be assured that we will be working to ensure the health and safety of all our mine workers."