Bring back check inspectors

Written By: - Date published: 12:31 pm, August 18th, 2011 - 30 comments
Categories: Mining, workers' rights - Tags:

Nats have announced 6 more DoL safety inspectors for mines and oil drilling. Up from 2 now (only one position filled). Sounds good but DoL’s failure at Pike River was systematic, not just about numbers. Where’s the stronger safety standards?

Why aren’t they bringing back worker-elected check inspectors? Senior miners, trusted by the others, whose only job is to watch out for safety. The miners want them. They used to have them. They have them in Australia. Why don’t the Nats listen?

30 comments on “Bring back check inspectors”

  1. grumpy 1

    A good step forward. The Mines Inspectorate has been below par for many years now and a few deaths here and there have not been enough to push successive governments into taking action. A pity that it’s taken the recent tragedy to move things along.

    Likewise, I agree that “Check Inspectors” would be a good solution. Better yet, would be dismantling the whole DoL/OSH bullshit system and focussing on real safety – not “well documented” danger.

    • bbfloyd 1.1

      “successive governments” ? it was the last national govt that created the system in place now,, and the last labour govt that instituted an inquiry into how to redress the balance..the only govt that has ignored this issue is the one we have now. they had their chance to act on the findings of the inquiry in 2009, but for reasons i don’t need to go into, they decided to ignore the recommendations..

      does history stop at 2008 for you?

  2. grumpy 2

    Just pointing out – but Labour had 9 years to do something and with their relationship with the unions could easily have bought in check inspectors if they wanted to.

    The bigger issue is the DoL/OSH culture and how it cannot ensure true safety.

    • The Voice of Reason 2.1

      Labour didn’t have a relationship with the Miner’s union, grumpy. Like most unions, they were not affiliated to the Labour party. However, a few years ago, they amalgamated with the EPMU, in part to get the ability to lobby for changes like this.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      Not everything can be done all at one you moron and they did get round to having an enquiry which National ignored. Or would you prefer it if the government just did things without knowing what they’re doing?

      The bigger issue is the DoL/OSH culture and how it cannot ensure true safety.

      That’s no reason to dump it, we know, after all, that not having them makes work place danger even worse. This would indicate that the model needs improving but not dumping for a new untried model.

      • grumpy 2.2.1

        “….Not everything can be done all at one you moron…”

        9 years mate, is hardly “all at once”. Anyway, the gradual deskilling of the mines inspection regime was like a frog in boiling water – it needed a jolt to sort it out. It is interesting that most opf the expert comment has come from retired inspectors and Australians.

        This “dumbing down” of technical issues and the emergence of a theoretical H&S regime (OSH) has lead to the current situation.

        • Draco T Bastard

          9 years of National government on top of the blitzkrieg of the 4th Labour government on the economy a hell of a lot needed fixing. Of course, the 5th Labour government was also still holding on to the delusional free-market BS. Still, not everything can be done at once and it’s possible (probable in many cases) that they got their priorities wrong and that, if they had done this, then people would be complaining about something else that they didn’t do.

    • They were slow but a review was in train, as this March, 2008 discussion document reveals.

      Here’s the press release that accompanied it.

    • Bored 2.4

      Jeez Grumpy, we agree. The whole inspector fiasco begun under Shipleys term was never resolved during the Clark years (or for that matter the Key years). They are all equally guilty of inaction.

      • grumpy 2.4.1

        They are only probably guilty of not understanding the problem and thinking a few people on the West Coast were not a priority. Also, ‘Coasters are pretty “gung-ho” types so were unlikely to go on strike etc).

        Anyway, Pike River Coal were “experts” and regardless of what the inspectorate regime was, they had a duty to make things as safe as possible for their workers (it seems they did not).

  3. aerobubble 3

    When Peak Mine got the go ahead and the media declared the innovative new mine someone in government should have asked if the inspection system was up to tthe task. Not even the opposition did so??? This is how disfuctional our parliament is, its getting citizens killed. The first answer to the
    question would be what do they do in other deep mining areas, what is their minimum standard. again, this throws up the failure of media, media should have been questioinig from day one of the mine opening why this mine did not have a second escape. So let’s not point fingers, just recognize the third rate natur eof doing business in NZ. From the shonky leaky homes, to the lack of regulations of finance companies (SCF), the poor mining industry where the workers who lives
    are at risk don’t have a say in the inspector regime, or the victorian art deco on Christchurch buildings recognized to be a safety risk in earthquake, or the new homes built on liquidible eartquake
    prone land. Let’s not forget that if we did even the most modest basic analysis and not left if to the
    free market then it would not cost so much money to invest after the fact to put in place
    management and oversight systems that over time would lose money and be cut by the time the
    next mining disgrace, or earthquake exposing developer greed, or whatever.

    So let’s give ourselves a round of applause, third rate after the fact response, that already beginning
    to look half arsed (no miner choosing the inspectors). We’re NZ, its okay to die from poverty, abuse, or any poor regulated public or private sector funtion that disgraceful government gets away with.
    And why? Well no upper house, that would have demanded better, no CGT which would have been
    implemented with a upper house. Our 100~ senetorial chamber is a disgrace to our democracy.
    It even looks like an upturn toilet.

  4. In Vino Veritas 4

    Over 2km to the surface via the entrance, 160m vertical climb out escape shafts. Approved by the Labour party in 2004. All because they didnt want to go straight down to the seam in a National Park. Whoop whoop Labour. Wouldnt have made squat difference how many inspectors there were. These guys couldnt get out. And you guys are blaming National. Labour is absolutely culpable. Pity they arent investigated for their gross ineptitude now, they wouldnt be able to legistlate the issue away…

    • grumpy 4.1

      Very true – but Pike River didn’t have a gun to their head. If it wasn’t safe, they should not have proceeded.

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1

        No, Pike River didn’t have a gun to their head. What they were doing was maximising profit.

        • grumpy

          True, but Labour made it a condition of the mining that if they wanted to carry out activity, miner’s lives were put at risk.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Nope, it would still have been possible to drill more escape shafts down from the top. Not doing so was a decision of the management.

            • In Vino Veritas

              Draco, what part of “it wouldnt have made any difference how many shafts there were” dont you get? Climbing 160 vertical metres in the dark (following a gas explosion that you are unlikely to have survived anyway) in a shaft filled with smoke and potentially flames would be pretty much beyond most people. The long entry to the mine was the main problem, plus it dipped along its length to get under the seam. If they’d gone straight down from the top, instant gas exit points. Mining is a risky business at the best of times. What Pike River was doing was mining coal, exporting most of it and yes, trying to making some money. They also employed a whole lot of miners, and if they’d made a profit, would have the taxes that keep moaning twerps like you in the money.

              A couple of questions. When was the last time you were down a mine shaft? How many people do you employ?

    • millsy 4.2

      Why do you hate our National Parks — do you really want to just dig them all up>

      • Colonial Viper 4.2.1

        We could hire a few thousand young people and employ them to create a few new National Parks.

  5. ipso 5

    We have the equivalent of check inspectors now. They’re called HSE reps. I think you will find that trained reps have pretty much the same powers as check inspectors. HSE reps are elected workers who sit on H&S committees, can warn others about dangerous conditions (and lead to a refusal of work) and they can issue legal notices when management fails to act on hazards. Sounds like check inspectors to me. Moreover with the model allowing workplaces to determine their own systems, if miners wanted ‘check inspectors’ right now, they have the power to assert that and with the HSE reps model in place the powers are already in existence.

  6. Galeandra 6

    What do you mean in this post, Zetetic?
    DoL were systematic in their approach ie intentionally and therefore negligently contributing to the disaster?
    Or, like the miners, the victims of politically induced systemic weaknessses?
    To whom are you sheeting responsibility home?

    • grumpy 6.1

      DoL were responsible for safety – and they failed!

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        The DoL can only enforce the regulations that the government put in place.

        • grumpy

          Exactly, and if you go back to In Vino Veritas’comments above, the Labour Govt set the conditions (which directly or indirectly) contributed to the death of the miners.

          • Colonial Viper

            Check inspectors should not have been removed by National and they should have been brought back by Labour.

            Pretty damn simple.

            Waiting around for reports and recommendations is a shit excuse because time matters and a risky situation is rolls the dice every day, not just the day that things blow up.

  7. Bryan 7

    It all ties back to the flawed HSE Act. Mining is only one of the worst examples of a regime that puts little value on worker’s lives. Taken to together with the anti-regulatory mind set that dominates government & society, and pervasive ‘cost-cutting’, it’s a recipe for soaring death & injury rates in all NZ workplaces.

  8. In Vito Veritas 8

    I have an idea for all Bryan, you limp wrist. Mines should be closed forthwith since it doesnt matter how much they are regulated, there will still be fatalities. So close ’em. Then Bryan, there will be no deaths or injuries from mining. In fact Bryan, because it is impossible to regulate against generally stupidity, and by extension, people will be killed or injured because of their own stupidity, lets close down all work places and everyone can go home and make a nice cup of tea and watch a bit of telly wearing their red cloth cap. But then Bryan, we’ll have to regulate the home, since some dullards are stupid enough to kill or injure themselves at home, probably spilling burning hot tea down their lap and tripping over the edge of the rug in front of the fireplace. So lets close homes to stop this shall we Bryan? Lets bloody well regulate!

    I have no doubt at all, that if the miners felt it was that unsafe they wouldnt have gone down the hole. 20/20 hindsight is a bloody wonderful thing. if they didnt mine, they could go and cut down some trees, oh and there’s another dangerous way to make a living.

  9. KJT 9

    Lets not forget that around 100 workers are killed on the job every year. Many more are injured.

    There are many jobs in New Zealand where safety regimes are subordinated to profits.
    It is not just mining where previous safety standards have been cut to compete.

    While I have every sympathy for a soldier and his family when they are killed or injured on the job.
    (Separate from any opinion about the rights or wrongs of them being there.).

    There are jobs in New Zealand, where the chances of being killed or injured are much higher than in the military.

    In the race to be the first politician to be the first to do something about mining safety, politicians should also be looking at all industrial safety. (Start with Korean fishing boats working for NZ companies).

    I don’t think check inspectors are the answer though.

    When we had the equivalent on the waterfront many were self appointed, obstructionist, political types, who had little understanding of what was really required to work safely..

    Needed are well trained independent safety specialists who are paid for only to oversee safety.

    OSH inspectors who have been recruited from within the industry and trained further in safety tend to be rather good.
    Unlike Maritime New Zealand, who recruit their accident investigators from the police force.
    AND whose motto is “Safety. At a reasonable cost”.

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