Jan 04, 2019

Safety ‘reset’ call after Saraji Mine death

Safety ‘reset’ call after Saraji Mine death Allan Houston, pictured with daughter Cassie, was killed in an accident at Saraji Mine on Monday night.

The mining union has called for a safety ‘reset’ across BHP’s Bowen Basin coal mines after the death of Allan Houston this week.

CFMEU Mining and Energy said it was calling on BHP to provide information to its workforce on areas of concern at Goonyella Riverside, Broadmeadow, Daunia, Peak Downs, Saraji, Blackwater and Caval Ridge.

“We are concerned that safety incidents on BHP mines are not leading to an adequate review of operating procedures, neither at the site the incident occurred nor across BHP’s network of mines,” Queensland president Stephen Smyth said. 

He said Mr Houston’s death at Saraji Mine had followed a number of near misses.

Houston, 49, from Gracemere, died when the dozer he was operating rolled about 10pm at the mine near Moranbah.

In a statement this afternoon BHP said safety was the highest priority at all of its mine sites. 

“The circumstances that led to the tragedy are now part of formal investigations being undertaken by the regulators including the police and mines inspectorate,” a spokesman said.

“In addition, we have initiated our own internal investigation.

“BMA has a track record of transparently sharing findings and lessons learned, which we are committed to in relation to the incident that occurred at Saraji Mine on December 31.

“We will not be speculating on the incident until the results are known. To do so would be disrespectful to Allan Houston, his family and colleagues.”

Areas that the CFMEU is seeking further information from BHP include emergency response capability, safe access and egress into work areas, and a review of dozer operations.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth.

The union said it was aware of a number of vehicle rollovers at BHP mine sites over the past year, similar in nature to the incident that caused Allan Houston’s death, including a near drowning from dozer rollover just six months ago. They include: 

  • In July 2018 at Peak Downs mine, a worker operating a dozer fell into a deep hole, which he was not warned about. He had very cold water up to his shoulders, could not get out and was trapped there in the dark for over half an hour, until work mates were able to rescue him. He thought he was going to die.
  • A similar incident occurred approximately 12 months beforehand at Peak Downs.
  • At Saraji in August 2018, a worker was operating a service truck which rolled due to watering of the haul road, which he was not warned about. 
  • This incident followed two other vehicle roll overs at Saraji in the three months prior, the CFMEU said.

Mr Smyth said the CFMEU saw the Saraji tragedy as an opportunity to review and reset the whole safety culture on BHP sites.

“That includes not only the way we work, but the treatment of workers who raise safety issues and make compensation claims. This is what CFMEU members will be standing up for,” he said.