Anglo Coal has pleaded guilty for failing its safety obligations after the death of an electrician at its Grasstree mine in 2014, Central Queensland News reports.
In the Mackay Magistrates Court, prosecutor Ruth O’Gorman said on May 6, 2014, the 36-year-old man went to work on a gas sensor in an area that was a ‘goaf’ – a section where coal had already been extracted that had been sealed.
In these goafs, the air becomes toxic and therefore fatal.
She added that the gas sensor he was asked to work on had been moved away from the area in January that year; but between February 4 and April 1 three job cards were given instructing electricians to go to the incorrect location.
The electrician died almost instantly when he opened the hatch to the goaf and breathed in the air.
A QLD Department of Natural Resources and Mines spokesperson at the time of the incident said he “may have been asphyxiated by a noxious atmosphere”.
O’Gorman said a maximum penalty for the offence was $550,000 and that a fine of $100,00 was warranted, with all parties agreeing on Anglo paying $15,000 in investigation fees.
Defence barrister Geraldine Dann acknowledged that the electrician had worked according to the directions of the job card, adding that the company was unable to identify whether ‘no road tape’ was put in the area.
Since the incident, Anglo has implemented additional safety measures including a requirement for electricians to be accompanied by a deputy when undertaking those particular jobs and that deputies inspect areas during each shift to ensure ‘no road tape’ is in place.
A second charge against the company for failing to discharge safety obligations and two counts of failing to discharge safety obligations against site’s manager were dropped.
On the back of the verdict, the CFMEU has called for tougher laws on employers that are found guilty of fatal negligence.
“We need immediate action from the Queensland Government to strengthen punitive action towards employers who break the law,” Stephen Smyth, CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland district president, said.
“A petty fine doesn’t even come close to bringing justice to a grieving family – employers need to know negligence will not be tolerated.”
The union will also launch the ‘Kill a worker, go to jail’ campaign, in response to the number of deaths on construction sites.
“Employers need to understand that if they kill a worker, they will go to jail,” Smyth added.
The sentencing has been adjourned to a later date.