Blurred lines on camp conduct
5 August 2014
The following article was published by The Mining Advocate on Wednesday, 10 July 2014.
Mine camp accommodation is a fact of life for many Queensland workers but health and safety regulations implemented on camps can walk a fine line between managing work activities and invasion of privacy.
McCullough Robertson partner Cameron Dean will be discussing the issue at this year’s Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference in Townsville.
“In a broad sense, for the mining industry, FIFO arrangements have become commonplace and there are various aspects on how they impact on various people,” he said.
“What I’m looking at examining is mine camp accommodations and some of the legal issues that arise. So, difficulties leaving camps, restrictions on drinking alcohol, curfews and, in a broader sense, lifestyle issues.”
Mr Dean said that on the whole, mine camp operators managed health and safety obligations well but that the issue required continuous monitoring.
“Mine camp accommodation is something that we’re still coming to grips with. There are blurred lines between invasion of private versus ensuring you discharge your obligations by law to ensure everyone working at the mine is safe,” he said.
“It’s not a set and forget exercise, it’s about being aware of what the impacts are and ensuring that where problems arise there are the systems in place to deal with them effectively.”
The issue of mine camp accommodation hit the media earlier this year when Labor MP Joanne Miller compared restrictions on camps to that of concentration camps.
Ms Miller made the controversial statements in State Parliament.
“To say that mining companies are engaging in fly in-fly out postcode apartheid is no understatement,” Ms Miller said.
“Workers are being kept in what only can be described as mining concentration camps.”
Last year the University of Queensland released a report into the issues surrounding mine camp accommodation and found that while the majority (75 per cent) of camp workers reported good levels of mental health, 20 per cent reported moderate to severe sleep disturbance, 60 per cent said work arrangements interfered with their home and family life, 40 per cent reported feeling lonely or socially isolated, and 5 per cent reported moderate to severe stress levels.
Mr Dean said the Factors linked to the wellbeing of fly in-fly out (FIFO) workers research report highlighted some of the challenges faced by workers and managers.
“If you look at the study, most people actually seem to be happy with accommodation at the mine camps but that’s not to say that there aren’t issues that need to be managed and dealt with,” he said.
“It’s a tough one. It sits around not being so prescriptive that you don’t impact on people’s lives to an unreasonable extent, while ensuring high safety standards.”
The Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference will be held at the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre from August 17-20.
About McCullough Robertson
McCullough Robertson is a leading Australian independent law firm with industry specialists combining legal expertise with deep industry knowledge and foresight. The firm provides innovative, relevant and commercial legal solutions to major corporate, government and high net worth individuals across Australia and internationally. Established in 1926 the firm’s major focus areas are the resources (mining and energy), food and agribusiness, technology, telecommunications, health and life sciences (pharmaceuticals), real estate and financial services sectors.
For more information contact Cameron Dean on +61 7 3233 8619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases. It is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.