In The Australian on 28 August 2008 was an article about the Australian Workers Union wanting to strengthen its industrial presence in the mining communities of the Pilbara region. Nothing surprising in that but the spur for this latest move was the death on 25 August of a 29-year-old worker in the Yandi mine workshop owned by BHP Billiton. The company acknowledged the fatality a media release.
The company has had several recent deaths in its facilities. According to a report on 30 July 2008:
“A 52-year-old Port Hedland man was conducting maintenance work on a scissor lift at Port Hedland when it fell on him at 1300 AEST on Tuesday, a police spokeswoman said.”
CEO Marius Klopper admitted on 20 August 2008 that BHP Billiton has had 11 fatalities so far in 2008. He is quoted as saying:
“The fatalities are difficult to talk about without getting emotional. The event that really shook us was that we had a helicopter crash where basically a pilot flew a helicopter into terrain and we had five fatalities. That was a truly tragic event and would be the single biggest event that we’ve had.”
“I think historically, we probably have reduced our fatality rates over time. It varies certainly from year to year but unfortunately we still have multiple fatalities every year in this business, which is something that we’ve got to continue to work on.”
Klopper’s comments received minimal media coverage outside of Western Australia. Perhaps that was because the CEO made those comments at the same time as announcing his company’s record profit of almost $A18 billion.