Companies fined for mine accident that broke worker’s jaw

Alicia PereraPilbara News
An aerial view of Fortescue Metals Group’s Cloudbreak Iron Ore Mine in the Pilbara.
Camera IconAn aerial view of Fortescue Metals Group’s Cloudbreak Iron Ore Mine in the Pilbara. Credit: Bloomberg, Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg

Two companies have been fined a combined $176,000 over an incident in which a worker’s jaw was broken at an iron ore mine site in the Pilbara.

Perth Magistrates Court was told Rema Tip Top Material Processing employee Adam Bromley was struck in the face by the hook part of a hand-operated hoist as he conducted maintenance work on a conveyor-belt system at Cloudbreak Iron Ore Mine, near Nullagine, in September 2014.

The impact broke Mr Bromley’s jaw, causing chronic pain which required the surgical insertion of a neurostimulator to suppress.

Both Rema and Chichester Metals Pty Ltd — a subsidiary company of Fortescue — were charged over the incident under the Mines Safety and Inspection Act, though only Rema was charged for causing the injuries Mr Bromley sustained.

Rema and Chichester Metals were fined $112,000 and $64,000 respectively.

An investigation by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety found Mr Bromley and a co-worker had been tasked with replacing a return roller on a conveyor-belt system but had used an “unsuitable” method because he was not aware of work instructions or that there was a belt lifter on site.

While lifting the conveyor belt using a “back-hooking” technique instead, he was injured when a hook and chain dislodged and struck him in the face.

DMIRS director of mines safety Andrew Chaplyn said that method was dangerous.

“Back-hooking is not an acceptable lifting technique to use on a come-a-long because the hooks are only designed to take pressure associated with a straight lift,” he said.

“They are not designed to take any pressure against the latch of the hook.”

Mr Chaplyn said both companies should have had measures in place to prevent such incidents.

“There was a failure to ensure safe processes and procedures were known and used by the workers,” he said.

“This was driven by inadequate training, instruction and supervision.

“Workers should not be required to guess whether a work method is safe or not. These hazards are known and should have been addressed by the company to ensure the work could be done safely.”

The companies entered early guilty pleas, which were taken into account at sentencing.

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