Mine conditions ‘safe’

SAFETY concerns for the Yallourn mine workforce, working round the clock to combat rising water levels in the mine, have been allayed by an on-site union inspection last week.

A partial site inspection was carried out by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, in response to concerned calls from workers within the mine, after another round of heavy rains inundated the site last fortnight.

CFMEU construction division’s Toby Thornton, who was allowed entry to the site to converse with employees of contractor Silcar, said overall, the response effort was being run as safely “as could be expected”.

Mr Thornton said the physical well-being of workers putting in long hours on consecutive shifts was being addressed by Yallourn’s fatigue policy, which ensured workers were limited to putting in a maximum of six consecutive work days, with one day off in between.

This comes after safety concerns were raised by Environment Victoria and Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan recently.

“Right now at Yallourn, people are working in wet, muddy and dangerous conditions trying to restore the mine to service,” Mr Madigan said in a speech to the Federal Senate last week.

With a number of contractors working in tandem to pump out water flooding into the West Field mine from the Morwell River, Mr Thornton said the working environment was unprecedented.

“You can see the significance of the job when you actually get in there and have a look; I’ve never seen that much water in my life,” Mr Thornton said.

While there, he said he saw some “minor issues” which needed to be rectified, but there was nothing “untoward” happening that wouldn’t be expected in such a large response effort.

“There’s certainly a lot of activity around the pumps where they are pulling water out, and they are doing their best to make sure ground surfaces aren’t too muddy,” he said.

“With the water coming in quicker then they can pump it out, it really is a daunting task that’s very demoralising; their efforts are definitely a credit to the workforce there.

“The blokes working down there are doing a fantastic job; we’ve had some atrocious weather in the last few weeks, but the boys have just got in and really rolled their sleeves up.”