Fortescue cleared in cyclone wrongful death case

Fortescue Metals Group has been cleared of the wrongful death of two workers killed when Cyclone George destroyed its mining camp in the Pilbara.

The Supreme Court rejected a WorkSafe appeal over the 2007 incident, instead upholding a previous decision that Fortescue had not failed in its duty of care, according to The West Australian.

Cyclone George killed two and injured dozens more in 2007 when it tore through the Pilbara mining camp, lifting dongas and flipping some over.

An investigation found that some dongas were not anchored to building standards for the region.

In late March 2010, Fortescue applied to have the charges dismissed, claiming that it was charged under the wrong laws.

It stated that both the miner and its subsidiary The Pilbara Infrastructure’s (TPI) mines were exempt from the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Instead, Fortescue claims its safety management procedures come under the Mines Safety and Inspection Act of 1994, rather than the previous act under which it was charged.

It aimed to have the case dismissed as the charges failed to identify the measures Fortescue should have taken to effectively avoid risks.

However in his judgement, Stephen Hall rejected WorkSafe’s claims that Fortescue and TPI had a duty to maintain the dongas as they had contracted another company to build and manage the camp.

"Offences of this nature do not impose absolute liability upon employers," Hall said. "The fact that an accident has occurred and that it was possible to conceive of some means by which it could have been prevented, does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the employer must have failed to do all that was reasonably practicable to ensure workers were not exposed to hazards."

While WorkSafe was disappointed over the decision Fortescue marked it as a pleasing result.

"Fortescue is pleased that both the Magistrate’s Court and the Supreme Court have reviewed the evidence and dismissed the WorkSafe charges against the company,” a spokesperson said.

Fortescue was the first of several mining companies to face court over charges arising from the cyclone.

 Below: Footage before, after, and during the vent from those who endured it.

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Image: ABC

 

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