Miners double down on eliminating sexual harassment

safety inquiry mining sector

A parliamentary report has spurred the resources industry to look inwards for change to combat sexual harassment of women in the fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) industry.

Detailing the experiences of workers in Western Australia, the inquiry draws from 87 written responses, 44 testimonies on behalf of companies and several individuals who shared their own personal experiences of being subject to sexual harassment in the sector.

BHP and Rio Tinto are among those who have taken actions to reduce sexual harassment, both reporting changes they have made to stop these types of incidents from occurring.

BHP revealed to the inquiry that it had terminated 48 employees between 2019 and 2021 in relation to inappropriate sexual behaviour. The major miner has also invested in a $300 million upgrade in security across its sites that includes guards, closed-circuit television (CCTV) and lighting in an effort to combat sexual harassment.

Rio Tinto said it had terminated 12 employees over sexual harassment or assault since mid-2021, and earlier this year released a review into the bullying and harassment culture within the company, with a promise to enact all 26 recommendations based on the review.

Chair of the Enough is Enough inquiry, Libby Mettam, discussed the failings of the industry to protect workers and detailed recommendations of what could be done to bring about a safer environment for women.

“The key to change is embedding a workplace culture in all mining workforces that does not tolerate sexual assault or abuse, empowering bystanders, like the culture change programs that have addressed physical safety with such success,” she said.

“Our recommendations cover many areas, including establishing industry standards for accommodation facilities, CCTV, lighting, and other safety measures as well as more moderate drinking standards. We also ask the sector to actively work to reduce the risks exacerbated by high rates of sub-contracting, ensuring that the obligations and health and safety standards are consistent across all workplaces.

“At the most senior levels of all organisations who we spoke to, there was a determination to tackle the gender inequalities and social norms that enable sexual violence and harassment to occur and to implement effective measures in their workplaces or regulatory regimes.”

The inquiry contains recommendations targeted at exposing the behaviours that contribute to sexual harassment and directing change at company, industry, regulatory and legislative levels.

“One of our most important recommendations is for government to consider establishing a process to hear, document and acknowledge the experiences of victims of historical sexual harassment including exploring opportunities for redress with a view to promoting recovery.”