VLI celebrates 22nd birthday

While our entire history dates back more than 30 years, we have now been operating as Valley Longwall (or VLI) for 22 years! At 4.30pm on October 16, 1996, contracts were signed over at the offices of Curtis, Grant, Irving (Solicitors) in Muswellbrook, NSW.

At the time of this signing, we were operating at a single mine site at Dartbrook Coal Mine in the Hunter Valley. We had four rigs and a lot of young, committed people working with us. We’ve had the pleasure of watching a lot of these team members grow over the years, and quite a few of them are still VLI employees today.

VLI have experienced an extremely prosperous 22 years. We have grown from humble beginnings, and today our operations span across Australia and even extend globally. Our company is people-focused, and each member of our team is highly qualified and passionate about what we do. This makes VLI an enjoyable and productive place to work, which is the foundation of our success as a business. We value our team, and we are committed to them and having their support and safety as some of our top priorities.

Our industry will always present challenges and opportunities, and we will continue to work together towards the best possible outcomes, both in Australia and internationally. VLI’s mission, to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations, is as important moving forward as it has been in the past. Our goal is to always be seen as industry leaders in technology and service solutions, constantly setting new benchmarks in safety, cost minimisation and productivity.

We would like to thank all who have been part of this journey so far, from the early days to where we are now. We know that each member of the VLI team has made a significant contribution to our success, and we are looking forward to many more years of growth and innovation.

Happy Birthday, VLI!

R U OK? Day and Mates in Mining

This year, National R U OK Day will be held on Thursday 13th September. With that date fast approaching, we wanted to do our part in raising awareness for the cause. The stigma once surrounding suicide made this tragedy a hard one to combat, because to address a problem, you’ve got to first acknowledge that there is one. Since 2009, R U Ok Day has tried to start the national conversation, by asking the all-important question.

In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for men between the ages of 25 and 44, and women between 25 and 34. This is a devastating statistic. In a nation that loses an average of 2,500 people to suicide annually, 75% of them male, there is much room for improvement. In fact, in the last 10 years, suicide rates in Australia have increased, which is just not good enough

Research has revealed that suicide rates are much higher among men who are operators and labourers, with particular mention of the construction and mining industries as occupations of concern. Following the successful introduction of the Mates in Construction (MIC) initiative in 2008, the need for a sister program within the mining industry was recognised. Mates in Mining (MIM) is an initiative of the Australian Mining Industry, and remains affiliated with MIC, adhering to their principles of operation. The original program for the construction industry has been customised to suit mining and is now in operation in a number of mine sites nationally.

The founding principle of MIM (and MIC) is that “suicide is everyone’s business.” How can we tackle mental health care awareness and reduce suicide risks if we don’t understand our role in forcing change? We can’t just leave suicide prevention to mental health care professionals, we all need to be mates and play our part. For those who struggle, in any industry, it’s imperative that they know where they can turn to for help and support.

Mates in Mining operate independently of employers and are unaffiliated with unions. Their preventative measures for suicide include community development programs, support workers, case management, as well as a 24/7 help line. The MIM/MIC vision is to be the leading industry suicide prevention organisation in Australia. Their mission is to; raise awareness, build capacity through active engagement within the industry and the introduction of sustainable programs, and providing help, support and case management to connect workers to the necessary services. They also contribute to research and studies conducted within suicide prevention.

In an industry that is male dominant, and often isolating, mining workers can be extremely susceptible to depression, mental health issues and suicide. Fortunately, we live in an age where this concept is not taboo.

VLI proudly support all initiatives aiming to reduce the alarming statistics facing workers in our industry. We believe in creating a work culture where employees are comfortable and know where to seek help when it is needed. This year on R U Ok Day, make sure you talk to your mates. Ask them the question. Listen to their answers. If you need help, or you are looking to help a mate – then call the MATES in Mining 24/7 helpline on1300 642 111.

VLI Community Service at ‘Our Community Pantry’ in Bargo

Recently, VLI have had the privilege of getting involved with ‘Our Community Pantry’ in Bargo. This community service project was a real honour to be part of, and something that was truly eye-opening for those that were able to participate.

If you’re not aware of who the “Our Community Pantry” people are and what they do, they’re a food rescue supermarket based in Bargo, NSW. They currently have over 1300 members, and offer delicious, affordable food to their membership base. This food would otherwise have ended up in landfill. This is a service of great importance to families who are doing it tough and struggling with everyday living expenses. As there are no strict eligibility requirements, the Community Pantry is able to be of assistance to families long before they hit the point of real crisis.

In a statement made by Our Community Pantry, they described their mission as, “One of our aims is to prevent struggling families falling into crisis situations. We hope that no child living in Australia should ever go hungry, or suffer from the emotional scars that are the result from watching their parents struggle to put food on the table. It is our firm belief that if you don’t have 6 months of your salary in a savings account, you should be shopping with us. “

In addition to helping local families afford nutritious food, their work is also preventing about 8 tonnes of food from ending up in landfill each week. The waste from Our Community Pantry goes to a local farmer who has been affected by the drought, in effort to help feed his livestock. This also prevents greenhouse gas emissions by 15,200 CO2-e every week.

For two weeks, some of the VLI team were on location in Bargo, helping out with various projects including building a cool room, fencing for a new chicken coop, working in the gardens, replacing the roof over a back verandah and constructing a new ramp for disabled members to give them better access. This has allowed the Community Pantry to open another shopping session for customers, doubling their ability to help and reach families in need.

Of the time spent with the Community Pantry, VLI Driller, Ben Slattery has said, “I personally found this to be a very humbling and rewarding experience to know that we are able to have such a direct impact into putting food in people’s mouths.

I also had the opportunity to travel to the central warehouse in Sydney where all the food that Woolworths knocks back goes to and it blew my mind to see a whole building full of food that would otherwise get put into landfill.”

We are very grateful for the VLI team members involved in this community service project and to have had the opportunity, as a business, to support such a worthy cause. Keep up the good work Our Community Pantry.

How to combat fatigue in the mining industry

In any industry requiring long hours or shift work, fatigue is a common adversary. Consequently, it is a major risk within the mining sector, contributing to a large number of incidents. Managing fatigue within mining is a WHS responsibility for all employers.

What is fatigue? Fatigue is “extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.” Studies have often revealed that due to impaired or broken sleep, shift work can diminish one’s ability to complete basic daily tasks, reduce concentration and increase the tendency towards reckless behaviour. Research conducted by the Australian National University found that employees working over 39 hours per week are far more likely to be injured or experience illness if WHS efforts in the workplace are insufficient. These workers were also at a higher risk of lower mental and physical health, and higher incidence of fatigue.

The rate at which individual people fatigue is different, therefore, strong protective measures need to be in place at a level that will safeguard even the most susceptible employees. Employers should review legislation in order to ensure they are complying with legal requirements, and protecting those under their care.

Some factors for mining industry employers to consider when reviewing their WHS strategies in regards to fatigue include:

  • Suitable rostering and support staff
  • Appropriately scheduled break times
  • Monitoring staff for signs of fatigue
  • Options for time-in-lieu when experiencing fatigue or having reached capacity for hours over a number of days
  • Adequate training, information and instructions in relation to hazards for fatigued employees

It’s not just workplace incidences that can result from fatigue that employers need to be mindful of, either. In 2016, a precedence was set by Justice Duncan McMeekin, in the Supreme Court in Rockhamptom Queensland, when he awarded $1.25 million in damages to an employee who crashed his car on the way home from work one morning. Harold Kerle had completed four consecutive 12 hour shifts when he attempted the long drive home and failed to negotiate a slight turn, resulting in an accident that left him with brain damage. His employers were found to have been neglectful in their management of fatigue in the workplace. This particular case highlights the need to ensure workplace policies are effective in managing fatigue risks and that employees are educated on the dangers associated with exhaustion.

When it comes to health and safety, VLI has an uncompromising position. We have a commitment to our employees, and everyone impacted by our activities, to ensure their health, safety and welfare. Our approach is based on incorporating risk management principles and guaranteeing compliance with all legislative and client requirements.

If you have questions regarding WHS or how to specifically manage workplace fatigue, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 4964 2300.