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Contractor fined $20,000 for Christmas Creek fatality

A mining contracting company has been fined $20,000 in Perth Magistrates Court for the death of a worker at Fortescue Metal Group’s Christmas Creek mine in 2013.

Mesa West Pty Ltd was charged with failing to provide a safe working environment following an incident that killed Allen Zuvela and seriously injured Ben Reid at the iron ore mine.

The men were crushed while conducting maintenance on a surface mining machine on 29 December, 2013.

Department of Mines and Petroleum Mines Safety Director and State Mining Engineer Andrew Chaplyn said the department’s investigation found a chain of events led to the incident that killed Mr Zuvela and injured Mr Reid.

“The pair were working underneath the cab of a Vermeer surface miner when the rigging arrangement between the cab and overhead crane failed due to overloading,” Mr Chaplyn said.

“Because of their position, neither Mr Zuvela nor Mr Reid could see the display for the overhead crane load cell, which indicated the weight the crane was lifting.”

Despite the company’s policy, training and instruction, which prohibited employees from working beneath suspended loads, Mr Zuvela and Mr Reid worked in the direct line of fire.

There was also no specific procedure or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) developed for the work Mr Reid and Mr Zuvela were doing.

“While a JHA for the job had been prepared by the dayshift crew it was not included in the handover to the nightshift crew,” Mr Chaplyn said.

“The handover sheet did not document any of the potential hazards associated with the job and did not mention there had been a JHA previously prepared.

“The JHA would have identified the potentially fatal hazards associated with the work and enabled those hazards to be addressed and the work to be carried out safely.”

Mr Chaplyn said he hoped the tragic consequences of this incident served as a reminder to the mining industry of the importance of making safety the number one priority.

“Processes and procedures are there for a reason – because there are life-threatening risks when working on mining operations, however risks should not lead to harm,” Mr Chaplyn said.

“The lives of two families and their co-workers have been irreversibly changed due to an incident that was entirely preventable. We all share a responsibility for safety in the mining industry and need to treat that responsibility as our highest priority.”

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AMSJ April 2022