Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt has been hit with a $20,000 fine after a worker was injured when his head became trapped between an elevated working platform and a salt stacker.
The company pleaded guilty in Perth Magistrates Court to failing to provide a safe working environment, copping a $20,000 fine and a bill for $6,283 in legal fees.
The lawsuit centred around an incident at the company’s Port Hedland salt operations more than four years ago.
The incident occurred while two contractors were using an elevating work platform to inspect the underside of a large salt stacker, guided by a third man acting as the spotter.
But one of the men accidently raised the platform, causing the worker’s head and neck to become caught between the platform’s control panel and the salt stacker.
The worker temporarily lost consciousness before being taken to Hedland Health Campus.
A review conducted in the wake of the incident found that while the workers had completed a job hazard and critical control checklist, neither had identified the crushing hazard as a risk.
According to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Dampier Salt had also neglected to verify the workers’ competency to operate the platform; which led to a delay in lowering the platform after the incident.
Acting WorkSafe chief inspector Christina Folley said it was crucial mine operators identified and addressed crush risks, which she said were well-known when it comes to elevated platforms.
She said Dampier Salt should have done more to verify the competency of the workers.
“While the anti-crush device installed on the elevated work platform mitigated the hazard to some degree, Dampier Salt needed to ensure the appropriate procedures were in place to provide a safe system of work,” she said.
“Mine operators must also ensure employees using EWPs are familiar with the equipment and the use of emergency controls.”
Dampier Salt is the largest exporter of seaborne salt in the world, with operations in Port Hedland, Dampier and Lake Macleod, and is the product of a joint venture between Rio Tinto and Japanese corporations Marubeni Corporation and Sojitz.