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Rockfall hospitalises mine worker despite wearing PPE

Underground rock fall
Underground rock fall

Headwear likely prevented an underground fatality but one employee still required urgent medical attention.

A blasting worker recently became hospitalised after multiple rocks fell about 3.5 metres from the development face and struck him on the head.

Although the victim wore a hard hat his shoulder and neck injuries were so severe, he was transported to a nearby hospital for emergency treatment.

WorkSafe Victoria later found several rocks within the drop zone had an accumulated weight exceeding 80kg. Investigators concluded the victim stood too close to the development heading face while loading explosives into drill holes. His colleague, who safely operated a pneumatic trigger several metres away, was unharmed.

“The development drive was fully ground supported up to the face through a combination of shotcrete, mesh, spilling bars, friction bolts and mechanical lock bolts,” WorkSafe said in a public statement.

“The face had been mechanically scaled by a jumbo drill post face drilling and manually checked scaled prior to charging. Approximately 75 per cent of the face was charged ‘top down’.”

The authority made the following recommendations:

  • identify all potential hazards during risk assessments and assess both the adequacy and benefits of existing control measures
  • include a broad range of expertise and personnel when developing risk assessment teams to ensure all aspects are considered
  • consider exclusion zones, separating distances from unsupported ground, ground support for securing development faces (e.g. partial or full face meshing further to mechanical and manual scaling) and other control measures.

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AMSJ April 2022