Lack of communication led to serious injury to mine worker at Lake Macquarie

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The NSW Resources Regulator has published its investigation report into the serious injuries suffered by a mine worker at Lake Macquarie last year.

On February 5, 2021, a 45-year-old man had his upper body trapped between a machine and a wall in Centennial Coal’s Myuna Coal underground mine and suffered serious life-altering injuries.

The regulator said the 45-year-old, operator of the Joy 12CM12 continuous miner machine and another worker were there at the time of the incident while replacing bolts on the roof of the underground mine.

At around 12:16 a.m. on February 5 last year, the 45-year-old was standing on the platform of the continuous mining machine. The machine needed to be repositioned, so he got off the platform and positiogot behind.

The regulator believes it was around this time that the operator of the continuous miner began repositioning the machine, but was unaware that the other worker had descended from it.

The machine traveled a short distance in a generally backward (outbye) direction and then before (inbye). The conveyor boom attached to the rear of the continuous miner was angled downward just as the continuous miner was being repositioned. As the continuous miner advanced, the right rear side of his conveyor boom moved to where the worker was standing next to the right rib.

The arrow struck the worker’s upper body and pinned him to the side. The the operator of the continuous miner heard the injured worker scream and moved the continuous miner, freeing him.

The third worker sounded the alarm and the NSW ambulance was called to the mine site.

A worker went to the emergency basket to get a painkiller gas called Entonox, but mistakenly grabbed an Oxy-Viva unit instead. No one noticed at the time that pain relief had not been given to the injured worker. Several workers began transporting the injured worker out of the mine in a transport vehicle and it was not until they left the child’s room that the workers found that there was no relief from pain for the worker.

The driver had to slow down as there were several sections of roadway that were rough and would cause discomfort to the injured worker, but this doubled the time it took to get out.

They arrived at the surface at 1:59 a.m., nearly two hours after the incident, and the injured worker was taken to John Hunter Hospital.

The regulator determined that several factors contributed to the incident:

  • Lack of situational awareness by continuous mine operator and worker
  • The worker did not follow the rules for safe workplaces
  • The continuous miner operator failed to maintain effective oversight while dithering the continuous miner
  • The continuous miner’s conveyor boom was angled to the right under circumstances where the worker believed it would be centered while the continuous miner was moving.

The worker suffered injuries including a severe broken left forearm, loss of a kidney, broken ribs, spinal injuries, shoulder injury, heart and psychological injuries . he still receives ongoing treatment from several specialists.

NSW Ambulance also told investigators they did not believe they had received enough information about the injured worker’s condition and that if they had received more they would have assigned a higher level response.

Image: NSW Resource Regulator

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