Ex-mines inspector praises Pike recommendations

17:24, Nov 06 2012

A former chief inspector of coalmines has welcomed the changes proposed in the royal commission's report on the Pike River tragedy.

Harry Bell criticised the Labour Department when he gave evidence last year during the inquiry's 10 weeks of public hearings in Greymouth.

The report was released on Monday and revealed major failings in the department's oversight of mines, recommending a complete overhaul of health and safety in New Zealand.

Bell praised the report's recommendation to reintroduce check inspectors - miners given the job of assessing workplace safety regularly.

In his evidence to the inquiry, he noted the royal commission of inquiry into the 1896 Brunner mine disaster, which killed 65 miners, recommended establishing a mining inspectorate.

However, the introduction of the 1992 Health and Safety in Employment Act eroded that inspectorate, which he headed at the time, and repealed the then Coal Mines Act and other mining regulations.

Bell, 79, who had 62 years' coalmining experience, said it meant mine safety became largely self-regulated by people who were focused on coal production.

All mines inspectors complained about the law changes at the time.

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