BHP ‘risks safety’ with gender quotas, union claims

THE safety of BHP's Queensland workers could be put at risk by the mining giant's move to put inexperienced workers into high-profile leadership roles, the CFMEU warns.

BHP is exclusively recruiting female and Indigenous Australians for its 18-month Development Supervisor Program in a bid to get more under-represented workers into the industry.

Candidates with "limited mining knowledge but strong leadership skills" will be trained for a year-and-a-half before they are qualified to take on key safety supervision roles, according to the job advertisement.

The move has been slammed by CFMEU Industry Safety and Health representative Steve Watts, who said putting miners' safety in the hands of inexperienced supervisors was "unacceptable".

"It's a step backwards in safety," he said.

"With all the fatalities in the industry … it's acknowledged there's already a shortcoming in the quality of supervision.

"Doing this is going to add to the problem, not fix it."

Mr Watts said the BHP program was designed to satisfy its quota of female and Indigenous workers.

"No one would agree with affirmative action if it compromises safety," he said.

"The best supervisors are people who lead by example and know how to do the job … you need the right mix of experience, leadership skills and training."

A BHP spokesman said recruits would go through an “intensive” development program to expand their skills and ensure safety remained the “highest priority”. Picture: David Mariuz/AAP
A BHP spokesman said recruits would go through an “intensive” development program to expand their skills and ensure safety remained the “highest priority”. Picture: David Mariuz/AAP

Four miners died last year while the State Government's mining safety committee sat idle for six months because it could not reach a gender quota.

A review into the 47 Queensland mining fatalities between 2000 and 2019 noted "almost all of the deaths were the result of systemic, organisational, supervision or training failures".

A BHP spokesman said recruits would go through an "intensive" development program to expand their skills and ensure safety remained the "highest priority".

"Our most inclusive and diverse teams are our safest and most productive - delivering 67 per cent fewer recordable injuries, 28 per cent lower unplanned absence rates, and up to 11 per cent higher planned and scheduled work delivery," he said.

"Not only will the recruitment of female and Indigenous leaders make BMA more diverse, better reflecting the balance we see in our communities, but we are confident this initiative will also result in safety and productivity improvements across our business.

"New recruits who don't have a history in the mining industry will go through an intensive development program with training in the core competencies of production and maintenance in mining."


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