Ravensthorpe nickel mine contractor fined over accident

A contractor at a nickel mine in Western Australia’s south east has been fined $11,000 after a machine loaded with pipes rolled and almost injured his daughter and another employee. The court found two workers were not properly trained or supervised.

Canadian-owned company FQM, which runs the Ravensthorpe mine, is also facing charges relating to the same incident. The 2017 accident happened at the Ravensthorpe nickel and processing plant operated by First Quantum Minerals Australia (FQM), which was also facing charges relating to the incident.

In the Esperance Magistrates Court yesterday Daniel Parker, from South Engineering and Agriculture (SEA), pleaded guilty to endangering two workers when a telehandler machine tipped over while he was a contractor for FQM in January 2017.

Prior to the accident, SEA staff, including Mr Parker’s 18-year-old daughter, Hannah Parker, and SEA supervisor Shaun White, were removing and replacing pipes near the mine’s tailings dam. The two workers attempted to lift a pipe assembly weighing more than 3 tonnes, by slinging it to the telehandler machine driven by Ms Parker.

The slings broke, causing the machine to roll towards Mr White, narrowly missing him. The court heard Mr White, who attached the pipes to the machine with slings, was not qualified to do this work. And Ms Parker operating the telehandler was inexperienced and was not properly trained to use the vehicle as a crane.

Nick John from the state solicitor’s office told the court Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety inspectors, the slings used to lift the pipes were in an “atrocious condition”. “The telehandler rolling could have seriously injured or killed Mr White,” Mr John said.

Mr Parker’s daughter, Hannah, was not seriously hurt in the accident but her safety was also put at risk. The court was told Canadian-owned company FQM required Mr Parker’s staff to have suitable qualifications to operate machinery on its mine site, but FQM did not do any “verification of competence” on any of these workers.

FQM only recently reopened the Ravensthorpe mine, after closing it in October 2017. Daniel Parker says he has made major changes to his business to improve safety.

Mr Parker acknowledged he was not supervising his staff the day of the accident because he went to pick up another employee, his 20-year-old son, from a random drug test required by FQM. He said since the accident both his children, who still work with him, had been trained in rigging skills, and he’s upgraded his Hopetoun-based business’ workplace safety practices.

He hoped his experience would be a warning to other small businesses. “I employ two of my children and anyone would be heartbroken to injure their own children … let alone someone else’s family members,” Mr Parker said. “So it’s very important to have occupational health and safety procedures up to speed.”

Magistrate Ayling, in imposing the $11,000 fine as well as $5,000 in court costs, said Mr Parker should have given better instructions to staff, trained them properly, and been aware of the risks. “This was an incident of South Engineering and Agriculture cutting corners to save time,” she said.

FQM are due to face court later this year charged with failing to keep workers safe on a mine site, in relation to the same accident, and an additional workplace safety charge from an incident in May 2017.

Source: ABC news

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