Peak Downs Mine At Moranbah.
Peak Downs Mine At Moranbah.

CFMEU demands action after mine near-drowning fallout

A UNION leader has demanded mining executives be held to account following a report into the near-drowning incident of a mine worker that left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The investigation report related to an incident in which a 62-year-old dozer operator was working in 700mm of water at BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance's Peak Downs mine on July 9, 2018.

The bulldozer fell into a void the operator was unaware of, and he was submerged and trapped before being rescued by workmates who smashed windows of the vehicle.

One of the key findings of the report was the Safe Work Instructions for excavator operations had "not been reviewed within five years (although the document required a two-yearly review)".

The report also found there "appears to be an acceptance of carrying out mining operations in shallow water without the application of all required controls".

CFMEU mining and energy Queensland district president Stephen Smyth.
CFMEU mining and energy Queensland district president Stephen Smyth.

"This potentially is due to there being a perceived low risk of drowning when in the cab of a machine well above the water level, and doesn't consider the risk when a machine traverses into an unknown deep void or topples where the cab may enter the water," the report found.

It also noted there appeared to be an "inadequacy in regards to documentation and verification" of information, adding the identified hazard resulting from over-digging the trench was not effectively documented or communicated between supervisors and operators.

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BHP's BMA own investigators questioned why water had not been removed from the pit before the dozer started work - a measure that could have prevented the near-fatal accident.

Six months later, mineworker Allan Houston died in similar circumstances at the company's Saraji mine, where the dozer he was operating fell down an embankment and landed in muddy water.

December 31, 2018: Allan Houston was fatally injured when his bulldozer overturned at BMA’s Saraji Open Cut Coal Mine, near Moranbah.
December 31, 2018: Allan Houston was fatally injured when his bulldozer overturned at BMA’s Saraji Open Cut Coal Mine, near Moranbah.

"When Allan died there weren't adequate protocols in place for working around water," CFMEU mining and energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth said.

"The fact that there was a near-miss involving water just six months earlier at another BHP mine shows they have really dropped the ball on safety.

"BHP says safety comes first, but they're just empty words. It's time to hold mining executives to account for this approach that is injuring and killing workers."

A BMA spokesman said safety was the highest priority.

"Consistent with our commitment to continuously improving safety … and the position we have taken on sharing all investigations openly, we provided the investigation findings to the Mines Inspectorate and shared them across all of our sites," the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the circumstances of the Peak Downs incident and Mr Houston's death were "very different".

It was recently revealed charges had been filed by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy against BMA over Mr Houston's death.