AMSJ » Coal mine’s work health safety undertaking rejected
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Coal mine’s work health safety undertaking rejected

Appin North Coal Colliery
Appin North Coal Colliery

Authorities have dismissed a resources giant’s plan to implement effective work, health and safety initiatives.

Endeavour Coal will have to go back to the drawing board after the New South Wales Resources Regulator recently rejected the BHP-owned subsidiary’s Work Health and Safety (WHS) undertaking.

The business unsuccessfully argued it was not directly responsible for one employee suffering a severe right-foot injury from being entangled in a scrapper conveyor during June 2019. The labour-hire worker was employed through contractor Mastermyne Group and based at Endeavour’s Appin North Colliery, 78km southwest of Sydney.

“When an alleged contravention is associated with an injury or illness, the details of the type of workers compensation [are] provided if the injured person is a worker,” the proponent said in its draft WHS undertaking report.

“The injured worker was engaged through a labour hire company. Accordingly, is not an employee of Endeavour Coal and details of the type of workers compensation provided by employer are not known to Endeavour Coal.”

However, the regulator strongly disagreed and accused Endeavour of poorly managing health and safety risks at the mine site. This caused the contractor to allegedly suffer a completely lacerated sole, multiple fractures, and degloved big toe and plantar fat pad. His right big toe and part of his fourth toe were amputated, while the plantar fat pad received more than 30 stitches.

The victim still has not resumed work due to ongoing blood clots, and both physical and psychological trauma. The regulator suspects he will keep experiencing medical complications indefinitely.

“I am not satisfied that acceptance of the WHS undertaking will result in the most appropriate and effective enforcement outcome,” executive director Peter Day said in his decision report. “Accordingly, I have decided to reject the WHS undertaking proposal.”

A November 2020 investigative report into the incident discovered the:

  • lights in the scraper conveyor drift were out of service and workers relied on their cap lamps as their only source of illumination
  • safety rail was removed to allow for a new scraper conveyor to be installed
  • safety rail was previously installed perpendicular to the scraper conveyor, which would have prevented the worker from accessing the area were the incident occurred
  • area designated for accessing the drift, which was parallel to the scraper conveyor, was covered in coal fines due to the scraper conveyor being out of service
  • scraper conveyor did not have the emergency stop lanyard in place at the time of the incident
  • mine had no introduction to site procedure for the new scraper conveyor
  • new scraper conveyor had no operational risk assessment
  • workforce neither assessed the risk of installing the tech mesh on top of the steel enclosure, nor operating the scraper conveyor with either safety rails or an emergency stop lanyard in place
  • replacement project was poorly managed and controlled due to key personnel being changed part way through work, coupled with a poor handover to new team members.

“I am of the view that the alleged failures are objectively serious. Therefore, there is a strong need for specific and general deterrence,” Day said. “I consider that the continued prosecution of the matter is the most appropriate and effective enforcement option.”

“The WHS undertaking does not satisfactorily reflect the objective seriousness of the alleged WHS offence, nor does it bring with it both general and specific deterrence commensurate with that objective seriousness as prosecution proceedings would,” he added.

The regulator fined Endeavour $65,000 plus legal fees and $3000 in investigation expenses. The company previously received 170 notices for different matters in the past seven years. These include 129 improvement notices, 37 prohibition notices and four non-disturbance notices.

Click here to download the full decision, draft undertaking and investigation report.

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