BHP and contractor slapped with fine over worker death

BHP Billiton Iron Ore and sub-contractor HWE Newman Services have been fined over $230000 for a fatal accident in Western Australia.

Mobile maintenance supervisor Paul Sparkes, 29, was killed whilst working at BHP’s Yandi mine in 2008 when he was struck by an arm of a tyre handler device sprung off as a heavy earth mover tyre was overinflated.

Both companies were found guilty of failing to provide a safe working environment in April 2013, following a thorough investigation and prosecution led by the Department of Mines and Petroleum,

The Perth Magistrates Court heard that BHP and HWE both failed to provide the necessary equipment for safe tyre assembly, and that Sparkes did not receive sufficient training for the task.

Magistrate Steven Malley said that while there was not a blatant disregard in relation to safety “there was a systems failure with dire consequences”.

Sub-contractor HWE Newman Services was found to have prime responsibility for the incident and was fined $136,000.

BHP was fined $102,000.

Both companies also had to pay a total of $125,000 in court costs.

DMP Resources Safety Executive Director Simon Ridge said while he welcomed this successful prosecution, the department would not rest on its laurels.

“The majority of mining companies are operating to high safety standards right now – but there are always some occasions where more needs to be done, and this was certainly a tragic event back in 2008,” Ridge said.

“That is why it is crucial for the department to continue to hold to account those who aren’t doing the right thing.”

Ridge said safety measures must always be in place to reduce worker risks to an acceptable level.

“While mining activities can pose risk, mining workers should not be placed in harm’s way, it is completely unacceptable,” he said.

 “It is up to all of us – companies, government and workers – to work together to achieve ‘zero harm’.”  

BHP acquired HWE Mining from Leighton Holdings in 2011.