6 Dec 2011

Pike's workforce was inexperienced, says witness

3:33 pm on 6 December 2011

A witness has told the Pike River Royal Commission the mine had an inexperienced workforce.

The inquiry has resumed in Greymouth for its eighth week of evidence about the explosions at the West Coast coal mine more than a year ago that killed 29 men.

Adrian Couchman, the mine's training coordinator, says each shift was meant to have four mining deputies, with five years of experience underground, to oversee the mining teams.

But there were only ever two to three deputies per shift because experienced miners were difficult to attract from Australia.

He says trainees were often put to work on the coal face before being fully trained, and contractors could go underground with less than three days' training.

He also says contractors' safety standards were not as high because they did not have the depth of knowledge in the coal mining industry.

Production 'more important' than safety

Mr Couchman says he believes the drive for coal production took precedence over mine safety.

He says there was a lot of lipservice given to hazard and safety incident reporting but many incident reports were not followed up and were signed without any corrective action being taken.