Coroner recommends hard barricades underground

An inquest into the death of a loader operator at Leinster has recommended the use of hard barriers to prevent machinery from having access to the edge of open holes.

45 year old operator Wayne Lance Ross died when his underground loader plunged 25m down an underground stope at the Perserverance Nickel Mine in April 2010.

It was believed that Ross had been taking rock material to the edge of the hole to build a protective bund.

Coroner Barry King released his findings, that the death was accidental, earlier in March.

The loader was calculated to have fallen at a speed of 75 kilometres per hour.

Despite wearing a lap-sash seatbelt, Ross was thrown part way out of the cab of the loader still attached to the seat, because the seat to which the belt was attached was missing two of the four bolts attaching it to its frame.

The post mortem examination revealed Ross died a short time later from multiple injuries, and was unable to show if Ross might have survived had the seat been properly attached.

Site investigations showed that the seat had been removed and replaced in October 2009, and it was likely that a failure to replace two of the seat bolts occurred at that time.

The investigating mechanical engineer Martin Simms said it was his view that had the seat been properly fastened the accident would still have resulted in fatal injury, as lap-sash seatbelts do not provide lateral restraint, but the lack of the two bolts had made Ross’ death “a near certainty”.

Mine operator Nickel West supported the key recommendation that physical, hard barriers should be used to prevent equipment and machinery from accessing the edge of an open hole, and that they should be used in conjunction with a lockout system whereby keys would be held by supervisors or another authority.

Currently the Cliffs Mine utilises a system where bunds or hard barricades are always put in place prior to voids or holes being created, which the coroner said should be adopted at all mines to prevent such accidents in the future.

Nickel West had investigated the feasibility of using differently configured seat belts, but said that “alternative seated belts tested were impractical”.

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