WA gold producer fined $90K for its failure in providing a safe work environment

A gold producer has been fined $ 90,000 in the Karratha Magistrates Court for failing to provide a safe working environment and causing the death of an underground jumbo operator’s offside at a gold mine in the Pilbara region.

The incident happened in November 2015 when the victim was working underground in hot and humid conditions beside a Jumbo drilling machine installing ground support. The man collapsed and died the following day due to heat stroke and exhaustion.

DMP’s investigation into the incident found that the ventilation system was not functioning properly in the area where the victim was working, due to friction, rips, holes and partially tying off of the duct.

Mine safety regulations require employers and managers to ensure that workers are protected from excessive heat. Employers must ensure that appropriate workplace environmental controls (including ventilation) and monitoring are implemented, and the manager of an underground mine must ensure that air flow installations in the mine are maintained in good order.

The mine has written procedures in dealing with excessive temperatures but failed to ensure that the procedure was observed.

Magistrate Young said the company had policies to deal with the hazard and was aware of the seriousness of the possible consequences. He said that the ventilation was not reliable, consistent or adequate and that the duties on employers are binding and onerous, but a deterrent penalty should operate as an incentive towards employers maintaining vigilance.

The Magistrate took note of the company’s early guilty plea and show of remorse, and that it had a good safety record over a number of years and ordinarily has a responsible attitude to safety.

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