West Australian mining contractor Macmahon Holdings has been grilled over its sexual harassment protocols, admitting it had failed to recognise the extent of issues within its workforce.
The ASX-listed company on Wednesday fronted a WA parliamentary inquiry into harassment and assault within the resources sector.
In a public submission to the inquiry, former Macmahon employee Astacia Stevens detailed her experiences while working as a haul truck driver at a Fortescue Metals Group mine.
She said she had been intimidated and bullied by a superintendent whose sexual advances she had rejected and was constantly followed back to her room by other male workers.
Macmahon chief executive Mick Finnegan declined to comment on individual cases but said allegations made by former staff had been "incredibly confronting".
The company has received 11 complaints of sexual harassment so far this year, five of which had resulted in workers being sacked.
Just two complaints were received in 2020, prompting questions as to whether it triggered concerns about low reporting rates.
"In hindsight, it clearly should have flagged a different response," Mr Finnegan said.
"At the time, we thought we were doing the work and getting the feedback ... our leaders are able to get to sites and really get amongst the people, so we assume we're on top of it and we were getting the real information through.
"But clearly, people were uncomfortable."
Mr Finnegan said recent media reports had prompted the company to send an internal memo reinforcing its commitment to preventing sexual harassment.
It prompted responses from staff who had experienced or witnessed such incidents, one of which involved an experienced female worker.
"Her concern was that every one in that environment is so close, they might not necessarily speak specifically about that incident but if it got out that she may have (reported it), she was concerned that it would affect her career," Mr Finnegan said.
The inquiry has heard damning evidence about the treatment of women at fly-in, fly-out mine sites across WA.
Resources giants BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue have investigated dozens of complaints at their sites but acknowledged there is still a problem with under-reporting.
Macmahon plans to survey its workers on the reporting of sexual harassment and improve training.
Labor MP Kim Giddens asked Mr Finnegan whether he was confident he understood the scale of the problem, suggesting Macmahon had dragged its heels before employee concerns were amplified by recent media reports.
"I'm confident that we've got good policies and procedures, I'm confident we've got a good team and I'm confident our team is commited to resolving the issues," he replied.