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Trust and Safety in the Coal Mining Sector

Open Cut » Health and Safety

Published: August 08Project Number: C16026

Get ReportAuthor: Neil Gunningham, Darren Sinclair | Gunningham and Associates

This report examines the relationship between trust (and mistrust) and occupational health and safety (OHS) in the Australian coal mining sector. Our previous research in Australian coal mining companies indicated that mistrust is deep-seated at a number of mines, and that these mines are usually the worst performers in terms of OHS. Mistrust also handicaps the ability of inspectors to worker together with mines sites to improve OHS outcomes. Given this, there is a compelling need to understand how mistrust comes about, and to identify practical steps that can be adopted by companies, mines sites and the inspectorate to foster the development of trust. The report builds on these earlier findings by investigating trust in a much more detailed and sophisticated fashion, drawing on an in-depth analysis at mines, across a number of coal mining companies, and in two state jurisdictions. Our research revealed that a “cluster of characteristics” are associated with the formation and maintenance of mistrust at mines with a lower OHS track-record. These findings, together with an analysis of the characteristics of mines with better OHS outcomes, enabled the report to outline a variety of ways in which mines may build trust within and between management and the workforce. It also considers the at times fractious relationship between trade unions and management, and flags some of the challenges confronting these two groups in working together to improve OHS performance in the coal mining sector. Finally, the report examines the rise and impact of mistrust on the operations of the New South Wales and Queensland inspectorates, and suggests ways in which a fairer and more just enforcement policy may help foster greater trust between inspectors and mines.

An e-newsletter has also been published for this project, highlighting its significance for the industry.

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