Company fined $50,000 after worker loses both legs
An infrastructure company has been fined $50,000 over an incident in 2011 that resulted in a worker having both legs amputated below the knee.
The Pilbara Infrastructure – a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortescue Metals Group Ltd – pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment for a person who was not an employee, and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court today.
Bevan Coutts worked for maintenance company Inline Engineering Services Pty Ltd who had been contracted by TPI to carry out work during a three-day shutdown in July 2011.
Mr Coutts was working at FMG’s Anderson Point iron ore ship loading facility on a train unloader indexer, part of a machine used to automatically unload iron ore from ore cars and onto a conveyor belt, when he was caught by the indexer arm.
His left leg was immediately amputated below the knee and his right leg was crushed between the 14-tonne indexer arm and fixed steelwork.
Mr Coutts was later transferred to Royal Perth Hospital where his right leg was deemed unsalvageable and was amputated below the knee.
Department of Mines and Petroleum Mines Safety Director and State Mining Engineer Andrew Chaplyn said investigations found the combination of the design of the indexer and the fact it had not been mechanically isolated contributed to the incident.
“The indexer had been electrically isolated during work prior to the shutdown, but mechanical isolation had not been done,” Mr Chaplyn said.
“The risk of uncontrolled movement of the indexer had not been factored into the Job Hazard Assessment and the work crew conducting maintenance presumed the indexer had been electrically and mechanically isolated.”
The indexer arm was positioned on an angle which created a risk of uncontrolled movement.
“The safety of members of the Inline work crew was seriously jeopardised. The physical and psychological impact of this incident on the work crew and their families, particularly Mr Coutts, provide a tragic reminder of the importance of safety in our mining industry,” Mr Chaplyn said.
Mr Chaplyn said the department worked closely with WorkSafe during its investigation and in bringing charges against TPI.
“The close collaboration with WorkSafe has been critical throughout the investigation process and in identifying charges under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA),” he said.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said the case illustrated the importance of recognising workplace hazards and having comprehensive safe systems of work in place to minimise these hazards.
“The charge brought against The Pilbara Infrastructure did not allege that the injuries suffered by the worker were caused by TPI’s failure to provide and maintain a safe work environment for workers,” Mr McCulloch said.
“However, it was agreed that the injuries were relevant in that they demonstrated the hazard posed by the uncontrolled movement of the indexer arm, a hazard that was not clearly identified and minimised by implementing a strict safe system of work.
“Although the indexer had been electrically isolated during the work so it could not actually be started, the risk of uncontrolled movement due to gravity had not been properly considered and guarded against.
“A worker suffered devastating and permanent injuries that were, in the end, totally avoidable.”
The company was charged under sections 21(2)(a)(i) and 21A(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA).