Death of worker highlights need to separate light and heavy vehicles on mine sites

The death of a female contractor at Ravensworth coal mine has been attributed to the absence of illumination devices on the haul truck that crushed her.

At 11.50 pm on Saturday, 30 November 2013, 38-year-old Ingrid Forshaw, a trainee plant operator employed by TESA Mining was fatally injured when the Toyota Landcruiser she was driving collided with and was run over by the front right-hand side wheel of a haul dump truck (Caterpillar 793D), weighing approximately 351 tonnes (including 186 tonnes of coal).

According to the report by the NSW Mine Safety inspectorate, Forshaw had earlier parked the haul truck she was operating at a stockpile and collected a Landcruiser that was parked at the stockpile by another operator at the start of the shift. Forshaw was driving to collect other workers and go to a crib break.

The truck operator was hauling coal along the 9th haul road (a main haul road in the Narama area). As he approached the T-intersection with the stockpile ramp (8th ramp) he saw the Landcruiser travelling down the 8th ramp.

As the truck operator approached the T-intersection he saw the Landcruiser enter the 9th haul road to his right and then he lost sight of it. At the time, vehicles approaching the T-intersection on the 8th ramp were required to give way to vehicles on the 9th haul road.

The Landcruiser driver turned right onto the 9th haul road into the path of the truck. The truck and Landcruiser collided and Ms Forshaw was crushed inside the Landcruiser and died immediately from multiple injuries.

The report has found that there were a number of contributing factors which may have led to the accident.

It says height of the windrows may have restricted Forshaw’s line of sight from the Landcruiser while travelling in a westerly direction down the 8th ramp, making it difficult to see the truck on the 9th haul road approaching the intersection

It also suggests background lighting near the intersection had the potential to disorientate or confuse drivers approaching the intersection on the 8th ramp. The background lighting may have adversely affected Forshaw’s ability to detect a moving vehicle on the 9th haul road with accuracy and certainty.

Water ponding may also have been a contributing factor if it had distracted Forshaw and/or led to reflection of the secondary lighting and vehicle headlights off the water’s surface causing glare and confusion.

Poor visibility of the truck due to the obscured front bumper lights and the recessed right side low beam light may have contributed to the incident by limiting the visibility of the truck that night. Due to the height of the truck and its close proximity to the intersection, the lack of light coming from the bumper lights would have made it difficult for Forshaw to see the truck.

It was also found that the truck did not have adequate illumination devices, making it hard to detect.

The report also found there was an over-reliance on administrative controls to manage heavy and light vehicle interactions at Ravensworth mine.

“The incident highlights the importance of having an effective risk management program in relation to the interaction of light vehicles and heavy vehicles at open cut mines,” the report found.

Eleven recommendations were made aimed at improving safety and reducing the likelihood of similar incidents occurring in the future.

These include the separation of light vehicles and heavy vehicles on haul roads and alternatives to the use of light vehicles for personnel transport while heavy vehicles are being operated on haul roads.

The department also wants miners to consider the use of traffic management systems which manage vehicle interactions at intersections, i.e. traffic signals, warning lights and hard barriers.

It says miners should use proximity detection and collision avoidance systems on light vehicles and heavy vehicles and ensure daily inspections of haul roads and intersections are carried out by a competent person.

It also wants miners to undertake regular documented surface transport management audits and risks assessments on all mine roads and intersections, which consider both day and night operation.

Since the incident, Ravensworth mine introduced an external contractor to ensure pre-operational safety inspections were being completed on a 24-hour basis.

Trainees now receive a 12-hour shift of instruction on driving a light vehicle in the hours of darkness. Trainees are now required to complete a series of skidpan exercises, including descending a wet ramp and controlled braking in wet conditions.

The mine also implemented a trial of green clearance lights, luminescent paint, and reflective tape on certain haul trucks to attempt to improve truck visibility.

You can access the full report here.

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