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Independent contractors and OHS compliance: The Case of Pike River Coal Mine

December 1, 2015 at 1:00pm PST, 4:00pm EST
Recorded in December, 2015



On November 19, 2010, a series of methane explosions at the Pike River Coal Mine, situated in New Zealand, killed 29 workers. Thirteen of the dead were contracted workers. Out of a workforce of 200, there were over 80 independent contractors who worked at the mine, most of whom were either sole traders or local, small businesses dependent on Pike River Coal Mine.

Pike River Coal Mine disaster illustrates the growth in outsourcing to contractors, whose employment status has been transformed from that of an employee working on a full-time basis to a contracted worker employed in often dangerous, insecure work with little or no control over their health or safety.

You will learn:

  • that independent contractors have played a significant role in major disasters
  • that there has been a growing trend to outsource dangerous, dirty, demeaning work to so-called “independent contractors” and what this means in terms of enforcing OHS regulations. 
  • that there are differences between “an independent contractor” versus “an employee” and  the different forms of contractors;
  • that the responsibility for OHS compliance is not straightforward when operating within complex worksites involving multiple players;
  • that the health and safety of contractors is often compromised, as supported by research and  illustrated by the case study on Pike River Coal Mine.   

Felicity Lamm PhD
Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research
Auckland University of Technology

Associate Professor Dr Felicity Lamm is Co-Director of the Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research at AUT. As a researcher in the area of OHS for over 25 years, she has written extensively in areas such as regulating and complying with OHS law in the small business sector. She has also been involved in a number of government committees and inquiries, including the recent Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety.


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Last Modified: 4/3/2017 9:14 AM