The NSW Mine Safety Advisory Council (MSAC) has identified contractors and inexperienced workers as the principal vulnerable workers in the NSW mining and extractives industry in NSW.
Vulnerable workers are defined as those who may not receive equity, access, participation or rights to work and as a result face discrimination and an elevated health and safety risk.
Vulnerable workers are not on the radar of many employers within the industry. This is despite an over-representation of vulnerable workers in fatalities and injuries.
Contractors or employees with tenuous employment contracts may be employed with less job security and employment safeguards than permanent employees.
Contractors are generally less experienced and less familiar with the workplace, environment, other workers and work procedures. They also may be engaged in high risk areas. In the NSW mining and extractives industry vulnerable workers are primarily new employees and contractors. Ensuring their on-going health and safety may require special management strategies.
Contractors account for half of all fatalities in the NSW mining and extractives industry between 2001/02 and 2006/07 and almost a third of all serious bodily injuries involved contractors. Given that contractors are working up to 35% of the hours worked on coal mines, they face a significantly elevated fatality risk. In coal mines 4 out of 5 fatalities in the same period were contractors.
As part of MSAC's focus on contractors MSAC has also produced the Contractor OHS Assessment Tool (see below).
NSW Trade & Investment have also produced two Guidance Notes and a Mining Design Guideline on contractors (see below).
Inexperienced workers are those with less than one years experience. Between 1999/2000 and 2008/2009, 20% of fatalities and serious injury cases in the NSW mining and extractives industry involved inexperienced workers.