Death highlights need to secure mine shafts

A report has warned that all mine shafts need to be fenced, covered and properly secured after a man fell to his death at the Lightning Ridge Mineral Claims District.

James Leslie Stocks, 46, was found dead at the bottom of a 13.6 m deep shaft on Mineral Claim 32904 on the morning of March 7, 2013.

The report, prepared by New South Wales Trade and Investment, said Stocks had been socialising with three friends at the mine camp on the night of March 6 before walking off at about 8pm.

Stocks failed to return to the camp the next morning, and his friends set out to search the area.

Noticing the shaft, which was normally secured by a piece of steel mesh had been left uncovered, led the companions to the discovery of Stocks' body.

Emergency services were called and the SES recovered Stocks' from the shaft.

Stocks recorded a blood alcohol reading of 0.209 and cannabis was detected in his system.

The report could not conclude how Stocks came to be at bottom of the shaft, and said there were still a number of questions surrounding the incident which had not been eliminated.

These include how the shaft became uncovered and whether the removal of the shaft was inadvertent or deliberate.

The opening of the shaft was a metre wide and featured a concrete lip and a metal covering that was not pinned down in any way.

"The cover weighed 14.6kg and any attempt to kick it off the top of the shaft would appear to be improbable," the report explained.

"Mr Stocks was not wearing any shoes, the edges of the shaft cover were sharp and irregular and the autopsy did not disclose any injuries to Mr Stocks' feet."

However the injuries sustained by Stocks were consistent with a fall from height.

The report said Stocks’ death highlights the importance of an effective risk management program in relation to mining operations on mineral claims.

It said all mining operations must have a safety management plan that includes details of how shaft related risks are to be taken care of.

“The NSW Opal Mining Safety Guidelines also recommend a higher standard for shaft security that includes extending the height of the collar, erecting fences and warning signs and installing a lockable cover,” the report stated.

The report also warned that a systematic approach to work health and safety at mining operations on mineral claims was required.

The full report can be viewed here.

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