Unions worried over BMA's switch to private paramedics

AUSTRALIA'S largest mining company has defended its switch to private paramedics after unions raised fears that the safety of workers was being put at risk.

BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance has replaced Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics with private firm ER24, which will now act as first responders at BMA's Central Queensland operations.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union sought assurances that BMA was not putting financial savings over worker safety.

District senior vice president Mitch Hughes said he was concerned the level of care might not be the same.

"This is a serious issue in mines, especially underground mines without mobile phone access," he said

"Mining is a dangerous job.

"Mineworkers deserve the best first aid, not the cheapest."

When put to tender, ER24 won the right to expand from providing its services at Goonyella Riverside - where it operated for three years - to now covering all sites.

It is understood the changes allow for BMA to now have paramedics at all its sites including at the Port of Hay Point, instead of relying on an on-call officer at night.

ER24 declined to discuss the deal.

A BMA spokeswoman said prior to the tender, there were three groups of paramedics working on its Central Queensland sites.

Having the one group now covering its sites, according to BMA, meant stronger safety standards that were consistent across its operations.