BTP Equipment Pty Ltd has been fined $195,000 and ordered to pay $100,000 in costs for its involvement in the death of worker Paul Torre on 24 December 2010.
Mr Torre was working in the mobile maintenance workshop at Fortescue Metal Group’s Cloudbreak iron ore mine in the Pilbara, through a labour hire arrangement as a contract fitter for BTP Equipment (operating as Ausdrill Mining Services at the time).
Department of Mines and Petroleum State Mining Engineer Andrew Chaplyn said Mr Torre was fatally injured during maintenance work on a Caterpillar 793C haul truck.
“Mr Torre was working on the truck’s suspension cylinder unit which consists of a strut and spindle,” Mr Chaplyn said.
“The strut is part of the shock absorption and suspension system of the truck and is essentially a hollow rod and cylinder, the inside of which is charged with high pressure nitrogen gas and hydraulic oil.
“An investigation by the Department of Mines and Petroleum found that the strut had been removed from the truck by the night shift workers on 23 December 2010, but had not been depressurised as required by the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) procedure.”
Additional work, which was also not in accordance with the OEM procedure, was performed on the strut that caused the end plug to be jammed into the strut, in such a way that it was no longer effectively stable and restrained.
“Our investigation indicated that Mr Torre was most likely unaware that the strut was still under high pressure while he was working on it,” Mr Chaplyn said.
The end plug ejected under pressure from the strut and hit Mr Torre, fatally injuring him on the morning of 24 December 2010.
BTP Equipment Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to the charge under the Mines and Safety Inspection Act 1994 of causing the death of Mr Torre by its failure to provide a safe working environment.
Mr Chaplyn said the company implemented a number of procedural changes to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
“Unfortunately these changes were too late to prevent the tragic death of Mr Torre and provide little comfort to his family, friends and co-workers,” Mr Chaplyn said.
“It is a tragic reminder of what can happen when safety isn’t given the priority it deserves.
“Every worker should be entitled to return home safely to their family and friends at the end of a shift or swing.”
Mr Chaplyn also acknowledged the length of time it has taken to investigate and prosecute the case.
“This has been a long process and has undoubtedly impacted Mr Torre’s family, friends and co-workers,” he said.
“I hope that the court’s decision can bring some degree of closure.”