Union warns workers to be wary about safety proposals

CHANGES to Queensland's mine safety laws are creating concern for the state's most powerful mining union, which is describing the proposals as "a mixed bag".

The slated reforms were released on Wednesday by the Department of Mines, and include the appointment of an extra safety representative, clarifying health guidelines for staff and contractors, and laws ensuring the dangers of potentially explosive dust would be mitigated through "stone dusting" - mixing rock dust with coal dust.

The Construction Forestry and Mining and Energy Union warned workers should be "wary" of the new guidelines compiled by the state's Department of Mines.

Queensland district president Stephen Smyth said the union backed the extra representative, but would not support changes to their powers.

The government proposes that these representatives will only be able to shut down a potentially unsafe operation if they are on the site in question.

Site-specific safety representatives will have to inform management, although all workers have the right under legislation to refuse work if it appears dangerous.

Mr Smyth was also critical of plans to narrow health assessments to cover hearing, breathing, muscle and bone function.

The industry peak body - the Queensland Resources Council - is supportive of the changes, although it would "carefully consider" its position before the November 11 deadline for submissions.

New laws enforcing water barriers and "stonedusting" to reduce the risk of explosion are expected to cost the industry more than $5 million a year.

Chief executive Michael Roche said the safety of workers was the top priority for industry.

Mr Roche said it had been a decade since the mining safety laws were put in place and they needed to be updated.

Submissions on the planned changes can be made at http://www.dnrm.qld.gov.au



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