A front-end loader and light vehicle collided on a New South Wales mine site last month.
The incident, which occurred on March 12, saw a Caterpillar 992 front-end loader reverse into a light vehicle entering a coal stockpile work area at the Whitehaven Coal Handling Preparation Plant in Gunnedah.
The NSW Mine Safety Investigation Unit has commenced an investigation into the incident, which occurred when one of the contract haulage trucks on site became dry bogged on a coal stockpile.
According to NSW Mine Safety, the loader operator parked the loader near the bogged truck and left the operator’s cabin to inspect the tow pin on the back of the loader. Around the same time, the operator of the light vehicle arrived at the stockpile area to swap with the loader operator.
“The site rules require all vehicles entering the CHPP to establish positive communications with mobile plant operating in the CHPP before entering. The light vehicle operator attempted to do this at the designated point of entry to the CHPP but received no response,” a NSW Mine Safety information release said.
“The light vehicle operator reported that there was heavy radio traffic at the time due to the bogged haulage truck despite a minimal number of employees on site. The site rules also required transportation vehicles to be parked in designated parking areas. The light vehicle operator did not park in the designated area and instead parked the light vehicle next to the loader.
“During this time, the loader operator returned to the operator’s cabin and began to reverse. The light vehicle operator was in the process of getting out of the vehicle when he heard the loader reversing signal.
“The loader’s right front wheel skimmed the light vehicle near the driver’s door and the loader bucket impacted the rear of the light vehicle before it stopped.”
The light vehicle operator then drove the damaged vehicle away from the loader. Both operators were shaken by the event, but fortunately, there was no injuries.
The investigation unit made several safety observations, and recommended operators should consider eliminating light and heavy vehicle interactions, consider transport management plans and human factors, as well as use technology to control vehicle interactions.
“Mobile plant interactions in mines and coal handling preparation plants, particularly between light and heavy vehicles, are a well-known risk to the industry,” the report said.
“When operating or travelling in mobile plant, the consequences of collision with other mobile plant can include serious injury or death. Positive communications and adherence to safety management systems is crucial.”