BHP workers fired after reports of sexual harassment

The mining giant admitted that sexual harassment is an issue in the industry

BHP workers fired after reports of sexual harassment

Nearly 50 workers at Australian mining giant BHP have been fired or banned over reports of sexual harassment in the workplace.

In a submission to a parliament inquiry into sexual harassment in the mining industry, the company revealed that at least 48 workers have been removed from their posts for cases of harassment, the Financial Review reported.

There have been 73 reports of sexual harassment and 18 cases of sexual assault received by the company over the past 24 months - all of which were reported to the police, according to the BBC.

"Of these 73 reports, 48 have resulted in termination or otherwise permanent removal of the respondent from our company and any of its worksites," BHP told the inquiry.

Since July 2019, there have also been two cases of rape and one case of attempted rape in the iron ore workforce. Investigations also upheld reports of women being kissed and having their breasts touched without their consent.

Meanwhile, similar reports are still under investigation, the company said. BHP admitting that cases of sexual harassment is a problem in their workforce and the wider mining industry.

"We are deeply sorry and apologise unreservedly to those who have experienced, or continue to experience, any form of sexual harassment in our workplaces," the company said in its submission.

Critics cited by the BBC said the culture of male domination and drinking flourished in these types of workplaces, which has allowed harassment to manifest among its employees.

Due to recent court cases, a parliament inquiry into sexual harassment of women in the fly-in, fly-out industry has been launched by the government.

Cases at Rio and Fortescue

However, BHC is not the only company plagued with sexual harassment cases, as miners like Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals admitted to facing such problems too.

Fortescue's submission to the parliament inquiry disclosed 30 reports of sexual harassment in its workplace since January 2020, 20 of which had taken place this year.

Rio Tinto, on the other hand, revealed that in the past 18 months, the company had one rape case and another one under probe, as well as 29 reports of sexual harassment with another 14 under investigation.

According to the mining company, the high number of cases can be attributed to victims and bystanders becoming more comfortable in reporting such incidents.

Resolving sexual harassment cases

To help improve the situation at the workplace, the three iron ore giants said they have set gender equality targets.

BHP said it is investing AU$300 million to make its mining camps safer for women. It has also deployed security guards since November, improved lighting systems, installed security cameras, and upgraded the locks in their worker rooms.

The company has also implemented the Ask-for-Angela service, which uses the word "Angela" as a safe word for workers who need help while on site, as well as rolled out the use of the SafeZone mobile app across its accommodation sites.

BHP, as well as Rio Tinto, also launched a crackdown against alcohol consumption at the mining camps, as this could be a precedent to sexual assault or harassment.

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