A recent decision in the NSW court found Bulga Underground Operations guilty of a breach of s 8(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000. What is interesting about this decision is that Bulga did have in place a safety management system – however it was not as robust as it needed to be.
This court case arose after a worker was struck by falling slab of coal when changing picks on a maingate cutter drum, within the longwall.
A supervisor had inspected the worksite before the task was undertaken (in an ‘informal’ risk assessment) and identified the risk of the roof failing, but failed to inform anyone of the risk or to implement controls.
The below is an excerpt from the ruling (the full details can be found here)
The particulars in respect of which the defendant has been found guilty, in summary form, are as follows:
- failing to install secondary roof support;
- failing to ensure that the pick changing was undertaken under supported roof;
- failing to ensure that the pick changing was undertaken at the maingate drive or at a take-off chute under a supported roof;
- failing to conduct a risk assessment;
- failing to ensure that the worker was provided with adequate information and training;
- failing to ensure that the worker was provided with instruction that if the roof supports were not able to be advanced sufficiently to provide roof support, he should not access the work area until secondary roof support had been installed;
- failing to adequately supervise the worker and the longwall crew to ensure that the maingate cutter drums were positioned under supported roof;
- failing to adequately supervise the worker and the longwall crew to ensure that a risk assessment was undertaken to identify hazards arising from the Huesker mesh.
What this decision shows is that it is vital to undertake appropriate risk assessments and report anything that needs to be fixed or altered in that process. You must also provide the relevant training and information to employees and contractors regarding all duties they perform.
Whilst Bulga was found guilty, their fine was quite low, due in part to the fact they did have a safety management system in place. The maximum penalty available is $825,000 however the Judge decided an appropriate penalty was a much lower $75,000.
If you would like a review of your safety management system, please get in touch with BusinessBasics Australia.