A lengthy court battle for a former Hail Creek coal mine worker has nearly come to a close, six years after a serious workplace injury.
The claim made by mobile plant operator Michael Haylett has been upheld by the Federal Court.
In 2014 Haylett was awarded $626,280 in damages for injuries sustained while operating a bulldozer at the Hail Creek coal mine during 2009-10.
Rio Tinto had formerly admitted fault for the injuries, which necessitated spinal surgery, and retrained Haylett for duties as a drill rig operator.
However, Rio Tinto stood down Haylett after he was awarded compensation, asserting that he didn’t hold a valid health assessment.
Haylett retained his position in August 2014 after challenging Rio Tinto in the Supreme Court, but a year later Rio Tinto requested a second health assessment.
That health assessment advised that Haylett was “fit subject to restrictions,” however the Federal Court heard that Rio Tinto management tried to have the assessment changed.
Justice John Reeves described the attempt to influence the assessing doctor as “disgraceful”, and said the case had a remarkable history which was characterised by the resilience of Haylett and “recalcitrance” of Rio Tinto.
"It's not something that the employer can use to dispose of workers because they're suffering from a disability,” Justice Reeves said of the health assessment scheme.
“It's a process that requires assessment in the interests of the worker every five years to ensure that they're not being affected by working in a coal mine."
Haylett's case, represented by Hall Payne Lawyers for the CFMEU, will resume on April 18.