FMG fined for worker injury

Thursday, 9 June, 2016 - 13:36

Fortescue Metals Group has been fined $50,000 over an incident where a worker’s legs were crushed at the company’s Anderson Point facility in 2011.

The Pilbara Infrastructure, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortescue, pleaded guilty and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court today for failing to maintain a safe work environment for a person who wasn’t an employee of the business.

The incident occurred while four men were performing a three-day maintenance shutdown of a train loader to replace a gearbox on the indexer.

The indexer is an electrically powered machine that runs parallel to a railway line, and shunts ore cars along the line using an arm that can be extended from and retracted back into the indexer.

In a statement, WorkSafe said the workers weren’t warned that the indexer arm sloped downwards when extended, and needed to be adequately supported if it was disconnected from the gearbox.

“When the gearbox was disengaged from the crankshaft, the 14-tonne indexer arm immediately began to extend, sliding down the rollers and accelerating,” WorkSafe said.

“One of the men working on the indexer was caught between the arm and pinch points on the indexer.

“His left leg was immediately amputated below the knee, and his right leg was crushed between the moving arm and fixed steelwork. 

“He was transferred to Royal Perth Hospital, where his right leg was later also amputated below the knee.”

WorkSafe WA commissioner Lex McCulloch said the charge brought against TPI didn’t allege that the injuries suffered by the worker were caused by TPI’s failure to provide and maintain a safe work environment.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

A Fortescue spokesperson said the company was extremely sorry for the individual’s injuries.

“The safety of all of our people, including our direct employees and our contractors, is our highest priority and is at the core of Fortescue’s values,” the spokesperson said.

“Fortescue is deeply committed to becoming a world leader in safety, and we are constantly striving to improve our systems and processes to make all of our sites as safe as they can possibly be.”

Meanwhile, a 33-year-old worker died after falling almost 20 metres from scaffolding at HBF Stadium in Mt Claremont this morning.

The man was rushed to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital after being treated by paramedics at the scene on Wednesday afternoon but died hours later.

Worksafe is investigating the accident and a report will be prepared for the coroner.