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Driver Of Water Truck Loses Disciplinary Dispute With BHP

Driver Of Water Truck Loses Disciplinary Dispute With BHP

Disciplinary action against the driver of a water truck who inadvertently caused an accident at BHP’s Peak Downs mine has been deemed appropriate by the Fair Work Commission.

The worker, Mr Julio Reyes, was verbally counselled as part of Step 1 of BHP’s disciplinary process, after he over-watered a section of road which led to a second water tanker slipping and toppling on its side.

The verbal counselling was performed by Superintendant – Production Pre -Strip at Peak Downs Mines, Mr Perry.

The driver of the second water tanker was injured in the accident and the tanker was damaged beyond repair. BHP was forced to replace the tanker at a cost of $1,200,000.00.

The incident happened in August of 2013.

Through his lawyers, Mr Reyes told the Fair Work Commission that the disciplinary action was inappropriate as he had followed the site’s standard procedure for applying water to the road.

However, Commissioner Lewin from the Fair Work Commission found that the disciplinary action was fair as Mr Reyes was required to exercise some judgement in his role.

“It was Mr Reyes’ responsibility to water the road and to do so carefully and diligently. There was an excess of water on the road which either caused or significantly contributed to the accident,” Commissioner Lewin reported.

“It seems to me that in deciding to issue the verbal counselling for failing to operate the water truck appropriately to the prevailing conditions Mr Perry concluded that Mr Reyes had paid insufficient attention and deficient judgement to the task of watering the road.”

“Mr Reyes was required to exercise skilful judgement of the application of water to the road. It may well have been the case that the water would have dispersed or evaporated from the relevant section of the road in due course. However, that possibility is uncertain and how long that would have taken cannot be determined with certainty”

In handing down his decision, Commissioner Lewin said Mr Perry’s verbal counselling was, “…reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.”

“The decision was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable in all the circumstances.

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  • I find it bizarre that the operator was objecting to a verbal counseling after a 1.2 million dollar piece of equipment was written off.

    However the accident report would need to be looked at before anyone could make an informed judgement. The following questions would need to be addressed that aren’t explained in your article…

    1/- Was the operator of the second water cart experienced enough to judge haul road conditions, was speed a factor, why was a second water cart traveling the same route that the first had just gone over ?

    2/- Are wet weather driving techniques taught at this mine or are all the dump trucks pulled up when it rains ?

    3/- Was the haul road designed with a wet weather surface ?

    4/- Had the operator of the first water cart ever been chipped previously for over watering the haul roads and were previous instructions ignored ?

    5/- Did the operator of the first water cart make a two-way general announcement that the ramp was very wet and care should be taken for the next “X” amount of time ?

    6/- And most importantly is the operator of the second water cart fully recovered/rehabilitated ?

    Cheer’s- Dusty

AMSJ Nov 2021