Effective OHS representatives are "very rare" in the mining sector, with most OHS practitioners "well meaning but generally ineffective", according to a mining union leader.
"They do not understand their representative responsibilities and effectively have no representative rights," said Luke van der Meulen, Victorian president of the mining and energy division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.
"With out job security, very few employers tolerate effective OHS reps, either providing effective reps with lesser promotion/job opportunities or terminating their employment on some false pretence."
Van der Meulen said it is not uncommon for an injured worker on a doctor's certificate to be conveyed to work by the employer in order to avoid a lost time injury claim.
"This reduces the number of lost time days or lessens the reportable extent of injury," he said.
"Statistically, safety figures often look very good. However many workers are often brought back to work injured, put on lighter duties to enable some recovery while they battle through the Workcover Authority weekly payment schedule in a pretence of a return to full work."
At 52 weeks, van der Meulen said such workers are often sacked because they cannot perform their "full" duties.
"They finish the 130 week of the Workcover Authority weekly payment schedule on ever-reducing pay [and] unless the injured has turned into a vegetable they are thrown onto the social security system."
Nothing in injury statistics demonstrates that the injury sustained eventually caused the premature loss of a job and exit from the workforce, and van der Meulen said vibration, nerve, spinal and muscular-skeletal injuries feature in this scenario.
However, Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive, Michael Roche, said there is a "long-standing and unflinching commitment" to the goal of zero-harm in the work place among QRC members, which include the likes of BHP Billiton Cannington, Rio Tinto Coal Australia and Santos/TOGA.
He said the resources sector showed exemplary leadership and results in improving workplace safety and health.
"The job's not easy and it's never going to finish, but there is nothing more critical to the sector's social licence to operate than a first-class safetyrecord, particularly now in the midst of major expansions across most of our industries."
Roche said effective communication holds the key to winning the best safety outcomes in mining.
"Prescriptive measures play a role in health and safety regimes but the safety improvements in Queensland's mines over recent years are a product of a mindset change that starts at the top and permeates the workplace," he said.
"Regulations will never stop people making poor choices, either at work or at home. A culture that instills safety as a core value and actively encourages risk assessment and reporting has shown consistently to make the greatest strides towards the industry's shared goal of zero-harm."
The next issue of The Safety Institute of Australia's OHS Professional magazine features a cover story on safety gaps in Australia's mining industry.