25/03/2009 - 22:00

BHPB safety report after site death

25/03/2009 - 22:00

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BHP Billiton has accepted calls for safety standards at its iron ore operations in the Pilbara to be improved following the death of a John Holland construction contractor at its site in Newman.

BHPB safety report after site death

BHP Billiton has accepted calls for safety standards at its iron ore operations in the Pilbara to be improved following the death of a John Holland construction contractor at its site in Newman.

The fifth fatality at the company's iron ore operations in nine months, the incident was the third involving a contractor from John Holland.

BHP Billiton spokesperson Samantha Evans said the company accepted its occupational health and safety standards needed to improve.

"BHP Billiton absolutely accepts that the safety record in the north over the past 12 months is unacceptable and we are doing everything we can to redress the issue," Ms Evans said.

"Safety is absolutely our number one priority, without question.

"We already have an internal investigation under way with the state government to determine the cause of the incident."

BHP Billiton Iron Ore chief operating officer Ian Ashby will meet with Mines Minister Norman Moore on Friday to report on safety procedures within BHP Iron Ore.

Mr Moore said five fatalities in one financial year, all at BHP Billiton sites, was unacceptable.

"I will call on the company to convince me that it is undertaking suitable steps to remedy this situation. Even one fatality is one too many, but this is becoming of great concern," he said.

Mr Moore said he supported calls for an independent engineering study of safety management systems at all BHP iron ore sites by the end of April.

It would be the second independent investigation into the company's operations in five years, after three deaths in 2004 prompted a state inquiry.

The Australian Workers Union said the call had come too late, and that the state government should close operations in the Pilbara while an audit was held.

"We called for a shut-down and an independent audit back in September, and again recently when a track maintenance worker was killed," AWU Western Australian secretary Stephen Price said.

Worksafe figures show the resources sector is the most dangerous industry to work in, having sustained the most work-related deaths, 140, in the past decade.

Worksafe commissioner Nina Lyhne said the overall cost to the Australian economy of work-related disease and injury was $34.3 billion per year.

The overall cost of flow-on social effects to the community, in terms of loss, pain and suffering, is estimated to be $48 billion.

"We tend to think about occupational safety and health in terms of direct workers compensation payouts and premiums but the costs are much greater," Ms Lyhne said.

"The cost of injury and death in the workplace is borne not only by workplaces, but those costs are borne by the entire community."

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