Major mining companies work together to create safer workplaces

1 March, 2023

Major Mining Companies, Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue are actively moving to eliminate disrespectful behaviours in the resources industry. To do so, they have launched a pilot program aimed at creating safer workplaces.

The challenges of working in the mining industry

Working in the mining industries comes with its challenges including labour intensive work, long hours and time away from friends and family. This is why on average; the mining industry workers are among the most well paid in Australia.

However, this higher-than-average salary does not excuse sexual harassment, racism and bullying. Recent inquiries and studies have shown that people working in the mining industry, especially women, are at risk of being on the receiving end of poor conduct.

“It is no secret that mining is a tough industry, exacerbated by the practice of ‘fly-in, fly-out’ (FIFO) common across the industry,” researchers wrote in the Western Australian Government’s 2022 report, Enough is enough: Sexual harassment against women in the FIFO mining industry.

“People have for decades been required to work and live in remote places, where the difference between work and recreation is blurred, and where companies have an unusually high level of control over what people do.”

The reporting that triggered the movement

The WA Government was compelled to create an extensive report on the series of sexual harassment incidents recorded – which made for some confronting reading. 

“The shocking conclusion we had to draw was that sexual harassment has long been and continues to be prevalent across the industry,” the researchers wrote.

Moving forward to eliminate unacceptable behaviours

Since the report, the mining industry has stepped up to introduce initiatives to help eliminate these unacceptable behaviours.

The results of the recent fifth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces reflect the extensive efforts the mining industry is taking to address the issue.

According to the survey, reported rates of sexual harassment in the Australian mining industry have decreased from 40 per cent to 32 per cent since 2018, below the national incidence rate of 33 per cent.

The survey showed that 62 per cent of women in mining experienced sexual harassment in the past five years (74 per cent in the 2018 survey) and 25 per cent of men (32 per cent in 2018) in the industry.

The Building Safe and Respectful Workplaces pilot program

The Building Safe and Respectful Workplaces program comes after the major miners formed a partnership in October last year as part of their response to reports of sexual harassment in the mining industry.

“The launch of this pilot is a key milestone in our broader commitment to create a workplace culture that is safe, respectful and inclusive,” Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive, Simon Trott said.

“Building awareness through education on how we can create safer work environments through the prevention and elimination of sexual harassment, bullying and racism is vital to ensuring those joining our industry feel safe.

“We’re proud to be collaborating with experts in this field, in partnership with industry leaders, and we look forward to the findings from the pilot and the opportunity to share with broader industry for the benefit of all Australians.”

The evidence-based program will educate participants about the impact of sexual harassment, bullying and racism, including how to recognise and report these behaviours.

“Programs such as this help educate the next generation of workers to ensure our workplaces are safe, respectful and inclusive,” BHP WA Iron Ore asset president Brandon Craig said.

“While we know there is more to do, this pilot is part of our redoubled efforts to eliminate sexual harassment and is in addition to a range of other measures, including improved security at accommodation villages, additional public disclosures, specialised resources and company-wide training.

You can read more about the pilot program in our past blog article here.