Mining companies argue over who’s at fault for injured worker

Two mining companies are arguing over the liability for a worker who was injured after a wall collapse on a Blackwater mine site.

BM Alliance Coal Operations has launched legal action seeking $814,638.32 damages from John Holland claiming the company breached its contract in not listing BM as co-insurer on an insurance policy.

BM was managing the Blackwater mine but had contracts with John Holland, The Daily Mercury reported.

On September 28, 2007, Kenneth Herd reversed a dump truck onto a ramp under a highwall so a digger could load his tray. But the wall collapsed, burying the truck under dirt and rocks.

Herd suffered head and spinal injuries and a result of the accident, as well as rib, collarbone and shoulder fractures.

In documents filed in the Queensland Supreme Court in February, BM says Herd was entitled to $1.47 million damages for his physical and psychological injuries, as well as future economic losses and medical expenses.

Solicitor Jonathan King-Christopher argued that John Holland did not update risk management processes as conditions changed, failed to install pegs for operators to use as guides, and did not to provide barriers to keep people and equipment away from the highwall.

He said the company's excavator operator constructed a 70-degree highwall batter and not a 45-degree soft highwall batter as set out in plans and did not implement technical advice to manage the risk of a collapse.

John Holland refutes the allegations, arguing it was unaware of requirement for a 45-degree soft high wall, pointing to notes BM had requested the 70-degree batter.

In documents filed on April 9, the company said that updating job safety analysis was BM's responsibility.

Lawyers for John Holland argued open cut examiners inspected the highwall eight days before the incident and identified "unstable cracked areas" to BM.

They said "any reasonable person" in BM's position "would have immediately instigated and enforced a closure of the entire section of highwall until necessary remedial work was undertaken".

The company suggests BM directly caused the injury through wilful conduct and gross negligence.

While BM says it is seeking indemnity because it alleges John Holland's performance of services caused the injury.

Image: latitudegroup.com.au

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