11 Jun 2015

Māori at risk in unsafe mines, quarries

7:53 am on 11 June 2015

A union representing mine and quarry workers says Māori are among those most at risk following delays to health and safety laws.

The Pyramid Valley quarry where a digger driver was buried in a rock slide.

The Pyramid Valley quarry where a digger driver was buried in a rock slide. Photo: Westpac Rescue

The body of a digger driver who was buried under tonnes of rock at a north Canterbury quarry was recovered yesterday afternoon - more than two days after the accident happened.

The man did not hold a quarry manager's certificate.

First Union, which represents mine and quarry workers in Northland, said about 60 percent of them were Māori or Pasifika.

Its national president Syd Keepa said Māori were over-represented in workplace accident statistics and are in high-risk jobs which were made even riskier when run by unqualified people.

"Let's get real here, this is people's lives. They're going out there to earn money, to put a roof over their heads - them and their whānau's heads - and to put kai on the table.

"So, you know, like you go there in a safe frame of mind and a safe workplace, and come home safely," he said.

Mr Keepa said people should be able to do their jobs without fearing for their safety.

He said the current health and safety laws were failing "not only Māori, but the workers at the coalface".

"I mean we've had the Pike mine disaster, we've had all those people die in forestry, and even in manufacturing we've had people die," he said.

He said he was worried about the safety of workers who were not covered by a union, or whose bosses did not have the relevant licences to manage a mine or quarry.

"I just hoped that we would have had the new [Health and Safety Act] out by now," he said. "The longer this goes on the more accidents we're going to have and the more unsafe work practices that we're going to see."