IT should be every person’s right to go to work with the expectation of returning home to their family safe once the working day is done.
Unfortunately, and despite major improvements in safety, that continues to not be the case across the Hunter’s mine sites.
Yesterday’s annual regional memorial day for the mining industry was another solemn reminder that there is still a long way to go.
Four candles sat front and centre at the service, indicating the four miners lost across the region in the past 12 months.
There was one for Jamie Mitchell, 49, and another for Phillip Grant, 35, who died working together underground at the Paxton mine in April.
There was also one for Mark Galton, a rigger who was killed at the Boggabri mine site only a month later.
And there was one for Ingrid Forshaw, 38, who became the first female miner killed in the district when she died at the Ravensworth North open-cut mine last November.
Each death sent shockwaves through the industry. Each face should continue to remind us all that we should continue to strive further for workplace safety.
Yesterday was the largest addition of names to the CFMEU’s memorial wall since the Gretley Colliery tragedy in 1996, the region’s worst coalmine tragedy in modern times.
They joined 1800 other names on the wall, a truly staggering figure.
Coalmining has been part of the fabric of the Hunter Valley for two centuries and that will not cease any time soon.
Each one of the 12,000 people who work directly in mining in the Hunter would know of the Jim Comerford memorial wall, of the latest deaths and of the danger of their jobs.
So would their families.
But when mining is your livelihood, it is not easily given up. So it is our responsibility as a community to make sure mining safety remains in the spotlight.
It should be noted that Australian coalmines are some of the safest in the world, and industry leaders have continued to improve safety. But each death again puts the microscope on what more could be done.
The NSW government’s resources and energy division has stated in the past that the government’s aim is for zero fatalities in the mining industry.
It believes it can be achieved.
All players within the industry, from mine management to unions to regulators and the workers themselves, must remain vigilant on potential hazards and dangers.
They must also guard against complacency.
The memories of Ingrid Forshaw, Phillip Grant, Jamie Mitchell and Mark Galton demand it.