Coroner calls for shake-up of laws

CFMEU’s Chris Gilbert agrees with the coroner’s findings that miner fatigue is an issue that needs addressing.
CFMEU’s Chris Gilbert agrees with the coroner’s findings that miner fatigue is an issue that needs addressing. Sharyn Oneill

A ROCKHAMPTON coroner yesterday recommended a major shake-up of how authorities and mining companies handle fatigued drivers on Central Queensland roads.

Coroner Annette Hennessy handed down 24 recommendations after an inquest into the deaths of Senior Sergeant Malcolm Mackenzie and miners Graham Brown and Robert Wilson.

In her report she likened fatigue to drink-driving in the 1970s when it was known to be dangerous but a way of testing hadn't been established.

Her recommendations if adopted, will have far reaching consequences for police, key government agencies and the mining industry.

Sergeant Mackenzie and Mr Brown were killed in an accident on the Rockhampton-Yeppoon Road in October, 2005, and Mr Wilson died in an accident on the Dysart-Middlemount Road, near Dysart, in February, 2007.

Both the miners were driving home after long shifts working at CQ mines.

Ms Hennessy found that fatigue had been a contributing factor in both accidents but said a severe storm was the main factor in the 2005 double-fatality.

She recommended police be given more power to stop drivers who may be fatigued.

Driving fatigued would become an offence and officers given powers to order drivers to rest.

One of Ms Hennessy's recommendations was that a permanent Forensic Crash Unit be established in Rockhampton and more police on the roads in the Bowen Basin.

Industry Safety and Health representative for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union, Chris Gilbert was happy with the findings.

He said fatigue was an ongoing problem for mine workers and many had a strong urge to return home as soon after their shifts finished, especially if they'd made the choice to live a considerable distance from where they work.

“It's a very big issue and it's only going to get worse in the next few years with the boom coming on,” Mr Gilbert said.

Some of Ms Hennessy's other recommendations involved more stringent guidelines for the mining industry including a requirement that workers undergo competency training in regard to fatigue management.

She also recommended that the commute from work be a larger factor in fatigue management strategies for mines.

Chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council Michael Roche said the QRC had for some time been working on a guidance note on fatigue with the Queensland Mines Inspectorate and the major mining unions.

“We will carefully consider all the recommendations made by the coroner to see what more we can practically do to improve the safety of employees as they travel to and from their work places,” said Mr Roche.

Ms Hennessy also recommended the Queensland Government look at releasing new public education campaigns to raise awareness.

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