Fool’s gold

Written By: - Date published: 8:35 am, August 2nd, 2013 - 12 comments
Categories: business, health and safety - Tags:

While the GCSB story exploded yesterday another, just as important, story was playing out as select committee hearings began for the the Health and Safety (Pike River Implementation) Bill.

In their submission, the second largest miner operating in New Zealand, Oceana Gold, was busy explaining why the new legislation shouldn’t apply to them. Claiming instead that they had a great safety record and that a union-paid onsite check inspector (elected from members onsite, by members onsite) couldn’t be trusted to look after the safety of their peers without politicising the job.

It was “scary”, their General Manager Bernie O’Leary declared, to think that a union member could have the power to shut down operations if they felt they were unsafe. Health and safety was best left to the company.

What select committee didn’t know was that even as O’Leary was sitting there claiming the moral high ground on safety, operations at his Reefton mine had been stopped by the MBIE because they were too dangerous – more precisely there was a significant risk of trucks rolling off the edge of a fifty metre drop.

But it’s the idea of workers having control of health and safety that’s “scary”. You couldn’t make this shit up.

12 comments on “Fool’s gold”

  1. Te Reo Putake 1

    Crikey, Irish, that’s shocker. Isn’t lying to a select committee a criminal offence?

  2. vto 2

    You are correct that that is unbelievable. The man is a fool – brainwashed.

    Remember though that this is a corporation talking, not a human. Corporations exist solely to make money. They are incapable of anything else and this should be borne in mind. His submission aint worth shit.

    This link here indicates the approach to all things mining by their owners – they don’t actually care about the environment or their workers. All sorts of shit goes on that never gets near the media. There are countless small ops all over the coast – it is like the wild west. You would shudder …
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/8986382/West-Coast-councillor-fights-mining-charges

    This same West Coast Regional Councillor, Allan Birchfield, the gold miner, about two years ago also went and stood behind a farmer in the dock being prosecuted by Birchfield’s own Council ffs for altering the course of the Taramakau River without consent. Complete and utter breach of the distinction between the elected Councillors and the executive of the Council. Unbelievable. Wild west. Not seen elsewhere in NZ – it is a throwback to the fifties…..

  3. Bill 3

    But…but…workers, being too stupid to recognise a 50m vertical drop would – on the basis of a tree falling in a forest with no one around blah blah – be perfectly safe, as they would be unable to plummet over that which cannot be recognised. It is only now – the danger having been brought to their attention – that operations will have to cease. Had management been left to not point out the potential harm that might result from being able to identify a potential source of harm, then any unaware worker slipping over the edge of the drop would have been in no position to remember how to fall, and thus, perfectly safe and able to simply step out ans away from the cab of any plummeting truck merely puzzled, perhaps, as to why their truck should suddenly have felt like a truck that was falling through thin air.

  4. Darien Fenton 4

    Wish I had known at the Select Committee! But I did know their EPMU members had submitted with a completely different view about check inspectors – seems Oceania hadn’t asked their opinions.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10906753

  5. Malcolm 5

    Workers already have the power to shut down operations if they think working is unsafe.

    Section 84 of the ERA.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      When was the last time this was ever used.

      • KJT 5.1.1

        Well I can name at least twice, by senior people, since the ECA, in my day job..

        One person, who did it, has never worked in New Zealand again!

        Another was blacklisted and worked elsewhere for 15 years. After getting over the health problems through overwork, and contracting on other jobs, he finally got a job back with the one NZ company which, occasionally, accepts non “yes” men.

        A couple more by those junior enough to have nothing to lose.

        Not much difference to mining really. The “regulator” chases “cover their arse” paperwork over minor things, and refuses to do their job. Which is addressing the real health and safety issues that occur. Specifically rest hours and manning. Which was very apparent when you dig deeper into the Rena incident.

        Concerns are expressed to the regulator and through the Unions regularly, but basically, no one wants to know.
        It doesn’t help that it is a world wide problem and NZ shipowners are competing with overseas ships allowed on our coastal runs who also, get away with it, with “flag of convenience” registration.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      How many workers, that aren’t part of a union, know that?

  6. Malcolm 6

    But yeah, a totally disgusting attitude from Oceana. Methinks they deserve a little picket outside their offices.

  7. Murray Olsen 7

    The workers onsite are the best qualified to know if something is unsafe. Corporate types think risk is something to do with managing hedge funds. Why do we trust any of them, let alone turn one into our prumstah?

    • srylands 7.1

      Most “corporate types” in NZ wouldn’t know what a hedge fund is.

      I agree that H&S reps should be able to shut down operations in high risk industries like mining. You stop “trivial” shut downs by making sure the reps have good training.

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