Indus Mining Services has been fined $60,000 over the death of a contractor who suffered a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting.
In February 2018, 34-year-old engineering surveyor Glenn Morton was working alone at Iluka Resources’ Cataby mine site, about 150 kilometres north of Perth, when he was stung. He self-administered an EpiPen and radioed for emergency assistance but co-workers found him unconscious and unresponsive some minutes later.
He died in hospital two weeks later.
Indus Mining Services pleaded guilty in the Moora Magistrates Court for failing to provide a safe working environment in which a contracted employee was not exposed to hazards. The company was also ordered to pay $6,000 in costs on top of the fine.
Mines Safety Director at the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Andrew Chaplyn, said bees were known to be prolific and a problem at the Cataby mine site.
While Indus informed Iluka Resources of the worker’s allergy, it did not convey that his condition was life-threatening or that he had previously been hospitalised for a bee sting.
“Employers should ensure site managers are aware of the significant information in a worker’s medical assessment to ensure their employees are not exposed to hazardous working environments,” Mr Chaplyn said.
Wife calls for inquest
Glenn’s wife Carly Morton has welcomed the successful prosecution of the company involved but she has renewed her calls for an inquest into the fatality.
“As a wife, $60,000 seems very, very low for the magnitude of what has happened with Glenn, but legally if that is a fair fine then I’m pleased that that’s what happened,” she said.
She said the coroners court has declined a request for an inquest but she believes it could uncover more information and raise awareness about the dangers of allergies.
“There are still questions about exactly what transpired on the site, why the Epipen medication didn’t work, where the communication breakdown happened and the coronial process would have been such an opportunity to try and find answers to those questions,” she said.
Mrs Morton said employers and employees should work together to make a safe work place.
“I think there needs to be a discussion and a responsibility for both parties, the responsibility for the employer to have a frank conversation, to do a risk assessment, to work with the employee, to come up with strategies.”
Workers must be protected
Advocacy group Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia chief executive, Maria Said, said employers needed to have systems in place to protect workers with insect allergies.
“It is important that workplaces understand that they too have a responsibility in caring for people that disclose special medical needs,” Ms Said said.
“Once a person discloses their potentially life-threatening allergy, workplaces need to consider their allergy in whatever work they need to do. “For someone who works, especially in a remote area, in the outdoors, that to me rings alarm bells. What processes were in place?”
Ms Said said allergies need to be taken seriously in the workplace. “I would say (bee sting) is the most common insect allergy that we have in Australia,” she said. “It is important that there is a community awareness of just how serious bee sting allergy and other insect allergy can be.”
Source: ABC News