Mining life: career-limiting moves for miners

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Always err on the side of caution if you want to keep your mining career on track.

Mining is highly regulated so if you want to succeed in a mining career, don't break the rules.

While the rewards are great, working in the Australian mining industry — whether you’re residential or FIFO — can also be tough. From long shifts to tough regulations, it’s one of the hardest roles out there. Mining is rightly, one of the most highly regulated industries and if you want to succeed in a mining career, it’s important you know, and stick to, the rules.

Regulations governing mining jobs are about preventing work-related deaths and injuries, creating a healthy, safe workplace for all employees. Breaking these rules is the easiest way to say goodbye to a lucrative salary and possibly your career. So familiarise yourself with your company’s policies and keep yourself in a job.

Missing your plane, bus or chucking a sickie

This most likely won’t get you sacked on the spot, but if you’re a repeat offender, even after warnings, you won't last long. If you’re constantly unreliable or get caught feigning sickness to avoid work, your employer won’t put up with it for long. It’s an inglorious way to exit what can be a profitable and fulfilling career — and it’ll make it very hard to get another job in the industry, too.

Lack of appropriate PPE or other health and safety violations

Health and safety is paramount in the mining industry and all mining employees should be well aware of their obligations regarding use and care of their equipment. Workers in the mining industry have been sacked for not reporting damage to a mine vehicle, misuse of PPE and smoking in non-smoking areas. Don’t take health and safety regulations lightly. In 2013, 15 miners were sacked after performing the viral dance ‘the Harlem Shake’ underground and posting it on YouTube. The miners removed their shirts to hide their employer’s name, but were booted because they had taken off a piece of their PPE.

Failing alcohol and drug tests

It’s pretty obvious why zero tolerance drug and alcohol policies exist in the mining industry. The risks posed by someone performing their job while impaired or under the influence are great, so the penalties for failing a drug and alcohol test are severe. Depending on the circumstances, you could face a range of actions, not least of all is instant dismissal. Read up on your company’s drug and alcohol policy and always err on the side of caution. You don’t want to lose your livelihood because you had a few drinks too many too close to your shift.

Criminal conduct

Any form of criminal conduct can be grounds for instant dismissal. That includes things like assault, theft, misuse of company funds and fraud. It’s really common sense, but it applies to both your working and professional life, so for example, if you are found guilty of assault when off-duty you could find yourself unemployed, too.

Sexual harassment

If the Harvey Weinstein scandal in America has taught us anything recently, it’s that sexual harassment is an ongoing problem in every industry and in all walks of life. Simply defined, sexual harassment is “any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated”. Sexual harassment is not only wrong, it’s illegal. What you may consider to be just having a laugh or bit of fun might not feel that way to the person on the receiving end. Exercising caution in all your interactions with other employees is the best way to make sure you’re not overstepping the mark.

Misuse of social media and bringing the company into disrepute

It’s most likely that your employer has a policy with regards to the use of social media. Posting or sending offensive comments, pictures or messages, or badmouthing your employer can all get you into hot water. Mining companies want to protect their brand and reputation, so if you compromise that, even if it’s outside work, you could find yourself out of a job. Once again, the Harlem Shake stunt was considered by the company to be a breach of its “core values of safety, integrity and excellence”.

Fair or unfair dismissal?

The Fair Work Commission provides recourse for Australian mining workers who feel they have been unfairly dismissed. It has the power to order an employer to reinstate an employee and/or pay compensation if it finds the employee was sacked unfairly. However, if the sacking is found to be ‘sound, defensible or well founded’ then it will be upheld. So, it’s better to know the rules and regulations and make sure you abide by them in the first place rather than risk losing your job and enduring a long, drawn-out process that may not find in your favour.

If you’re looking for your next big job opportunity in the mining industry in Australia, get in touch with Mining People International.

Lindsay McPhee
Mining People International