The use of explosives in mines in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was notoriously unsafe. In Queensland's underground metalliferous mines, explosive practices could be dangerous not only because of the attitudes of miners and managers, but because of problems inherent to the technology, conditions underground, economic fluctuations, and the persistence of outmoded practices. Some limited specialisation of labour occurred in the interests of safety, and although newer technology had the potential to deskill the work of miners, these developments were quite dissimilar to the highly specialised work practices that were adopted for large-scale mining in the United States during the same period. Copyright 2010 The Author. Journal compilation Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd and the Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand 2010.