Australian AGMs mention workplace deaths

Australia’s corporations are busy releasing their annual reports in October 2009.  The outgoing managing director and CEO of Boral Limited, Rod Pearse, provided his comments on the company’s safety performance to shareholders on 28 October 2009.

“Since demerger [January 2000], Boral’s safety outcomes have delivered steady year-on-year improvements and compare well with both ASX100 and industry benchmarks. Employee lost time injury frequency rate of 1.8 and percent hours lost of 0.06 have both improved by 80% since 2000 and are better than those of our competitors in like industries and in the top quartile of companies in the ASX100.”

Boral is, according to the executive statements, “a resource based manufacturing company with low cost manufacturing operations.”

The chairman, Dr Ken Moss mentioned the death of a worker in Indonesia in his address to shareholders:

“Boral’s lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) for employees per million hours worked was 1.8,which was a 28% improvement on the LTIFR of 2.5 delivered in the prior year. Contractor safety management also improved significantly with an LTIFR of 2.4, which was 58% better than the prior year.

This improved safety performance was better than our targeted performance improvement; however, it was tragically overshadowed by the death of an employee in Indonesia who was fatally injured in a heavy vehicle accident involving two concrete agitators in November 2008.  This employee fatality was a tragic reminder of the risks we need to manage every single day and the importance of continuing to focus our efforts on ensuring a safe workplace for all of Boral’s people.

The Board received comprehensive reporting from the business and face-to-face discussions about the fatality including reporting on the follow-up actions to minimise the risk of a similar accident occurring anywhere else in the Company.  The Board also reviews all divisional Health and Safety Plans.  We approve safety improvement targets and we regularly monitor performance against target for all divisions.”

Whether you consider this lip-service or genuine regret is almost irrelevant.  The fact remains that at the company’s annual general meeting, the event where shareholder and corporate analyst attention is very high, the chairman of the board acknowledged the death of a worker.  It’s a small tick for corporate Australia but it should be noted.

BHP Billiton annualReport2009The OHS bete-noir for many unionists, BHP Billiton, mentioned worker deaths in the 2009 Annual Report.  Outgoing chairman, Don Argus, says the following in the report

“Despite producing strong operating and financial performance during a challenging year, our safety performance was simply unacceptable. This year, we had seven fatalities.  The death of a family member at work has a devastating and long-lasting impact not only on the immediate family, but also on a wide community of relatives, friends and work colleagues.  The Board has reinforced its emphasis on management creating a workplace free of injury.”

CEO Marius Kloppers says in the report:

“I am personally deeply saddened to report that this year seven deaths occurred at our operations. Any injury is unacceptable and these fatalities highlight the need to do more as an organisation to protect the health and safety of our people.”

He summarises his report:

“…. our Group remains in an enviable position in its industry. Our low gearing, strong cash flow and portfolio of investment options positions us well to create value from the long-term demand for our commodities.”

BHP Billiton Limited’s AGM is scheduled for Brisbane on 26 November 2009. For those shareholders attending the BHP AGM, and any others in this company report reason, it may be worth remembering the words of Dr Ian Woods on corporations and OHS:

“… there is more to investing than just the economic case for improving OH&S performance. As well as the economic costs, inequality of benefits, costs and suffering are key issues.”

Kevin Jones

1 thought on “Australian AGMs mention workplace deaths”

  1. I noticed the fatalities mentioned in the BHP report. It\’s sad isn\’t it? Especially the statistical disparity of what is considered \”acceptable\” between employees and contractors. Oh well, as the big groups report on it more, hopefully it will lead to change

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