Bulga Underground found guilty in 2010 workplace accident

Bulga Underground Operations has been convicted of a workplace health and safety breach which resulted in the serious injury of a worker at the Beltana mine in 2010.

Employee Steven McNab suffered severe injuries on April 23 after he fell down and was crushed between the toe of an automatically advancing roof support and the side of a continuous armoured face conveyor.

McNab had no recollection of how the incident occurred, but the possibility of him having been struck in the head by flying rock was identified.

He was found semiconscious and pinned between the machinery, his helmet was off and his temple was freshly grazed, and a piece of roof stone was lying across his thigh.

Bulga pleaded not guilty to contravention of section 8(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000.

The defense claimed the type of event that occurred was not foreseeable, and said there were no injuries of this type that had occurred in the experience of expert witness Peter Henderson, Beltana’s Mine and Electrical engineer since 2003.

After the event miners in the team had suggested that an additional crew member could be used as a support advance controller, who could serve as a spotter for drum controllers and stop machinery if they are in danger.

Newcastle Herald reported that only five weeks earlier another worker in the Beltana Mine had been struck on the head and shoulder by a large piece of coal thrown out while he operated the DBT EL3000 longwall shearer, purchased by Henderson in 2003.

On Wednesday, the court ruled that safety measures put in place did not eliminate the risks associated with the task performed by McNab.

“Notwithstanding the matters raised … I have concluded that the circumstances in which [the miner] came to be injured were foreseeable to a reasonable person standing in the place of the defendant,’’ Judge Curtis ruled.

“The defendant failed to mitigate the foreseeable risk by taking the reasonably practicable measure of employing the services of an additional miner in the crew, whose sole task was to observe the drum operators and stop the advancement of roof supports if the drum operator became disabled.”

The court will sentence Bulga Underground Operations at a later date.

A spokeperson for Glencore said the company may consider options for appeal.

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