BEYOND Beaconsfield

The 2006 Beaconsfield mine collapse killed miner Larry Knight and trapped Brant Webb and Todd Russell for two weeks. 
But despite the ordeal Webb harbours no bad feelings toward the site or its management. 
Reflecting on owner BCD Resources' decision to close the site, Webb said the mine's loss was a "huge disappointment" for the Beaconsfield community. 
"It's one of the major employers up here," he said. 
From workers finding new jobs and relocating their families, to other businesses suffering from the drop in population, Webb said the Beaconsfield's closure sounded a somber note for the Tasmanian town. 
"It's a disappointment for the economic position that the community is going to be put into because we'll lose all our volunteers," he said, adding that "there are a lot of big knock-on effects" for the region.  
Having lived through the infamous accident and continued in the industry as business development manager for BLH Solutions, Webb said the once in a lifetime experience at Beaconsfield had informed his future in the industry. 
He said touching base with rescuers and safety personnel after the accident had given him valuable insight into the safety industry and guided his move into the sector. 
"The Beaconsfield collapse was a big thing in my life," he explained. 
"We've made a lot of good friends with the people that rescued us, because they're our heroes, they united us with our families. 
"I've got the utmost admiration and respect for the guys that got us out." 
 
Despite living through the ordeal Webb retains a hint of mordancy when recounting the collapse and his eventual rescue, explaining that "not many people live under a hundred tonnes of rock, so that made us a little bit special. 
"The survival instinct kicked in and we lied to each other, that's what you do. 
"At the end of the day we didn't have much in common, we were like chalk and cheese, so it was pretty tough work at times to make a conversation. 
"But having that relationship saved our lives." 
One of the most evocative stories of the entire ordeal is the picture of how Webb and Russell discovered their air supply whilst trapped underground. 
"When I pulled the lighter from my pocket the flame bent to where the air was going," he said. 
"When I followed it down there was a gap around 55mm wide where the air was coming in. That was the only gap we had. 
"Without that gap we would've had about 45 minutres of air before we were on our oxygen boxes, and then probably 25 to 30 minutes with them. 
"At best we would have had about an hour of air." 
Webb said his experience at Beaconsfield had driven home the importance of safety and spurred his move to help guide developments at BHL. 
"I lost a good mate of mine that I worked with," he said. 
"I worked with Larry every shift for nearly seven years, and when you lose a really good acquaintance like that it changes your perception. 
"Because of that I was really happy to be asked to be the face of safety for BLH." 
At BLH Webb has helped the development of the Stop Drop Barricade, designed to protect workers from being hit by falling objects. 
In the [financial year before last] falling objects were the most common cause of work-related fatalities in Australian industries, and Webb said he was proud to help develop the product. 
Whilst just emerging from development and testing, he said local and international interest had been high and the product was starting to make its way to some Australian mines. 
"We've got quite a few trial pieces going into different mine sites and BHP Billiton have also taken us on at Olympic Dam," he said. 
"There are people all over the world wanting it, in Chile, Candada, and even the oil and gas industry is starting to look at it." 
An approach he's felt the impact of first hand, Webb said even a single missed accident would mean a big return on investment. 
"We'll be the happiest company alive if it saves even one person. We'll be ecstatic," he said. 
 

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