Dampier Salt fined after worker suffers crush injury

Dampier Salt Limited was today fined $20,000 and ordered to pay $6,283 in costs after a worker’s head and neck became trapped.
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Dampier Salt Limited was today fined $20,000 and ordered to pay $6,283 in costs after a worker’s head and neck became trapped while working at height at the company’s Port Hedland salt operations.

In July 2018, two contractors were using an elevating work platform (EWP) to inspect the underside of a large salt stacker. A third man was working at ground level as the leading hand and spotter.

One of the men inadvertently raised the EWP which caused his head and neck to become caught between the platform’s control panel and the salt stacker. The injured contractor temporarily lost consciousness and was taken by ambulance to the Hedland Health Campus. He was discharged later that day.

While the workers completed a Job Hazard Analysis and a Critical Control Checklist before starting the job, neither report identified the crush hazard as an applicable risk.

The company also failed to verify the workers’ competency to operate the relevant make and model of EWP. This lack of familiarisation caused a delay in lowering the platform after the contractor lost consciousness.

Dampier Salt pleaded guilty in the Perth Magistrates Court for failing to provide a safe working environment.

Acting WorkSafe Chief Inspector of Mines Christina Folley said crush injuries are a well-known risk when EWPs are working beneath other structures.

“Mine operators must identify and address potential crush risks for all work using EWPs,” she said.

“While the anti-crush device installed on the EWP mitigated the hazard to some degree, Dampier Salt needed to ensure the appropriate procedures were in place to provide a safe system of work.

“Mine operators must also ensure employees using EWPs are familiar with the equipment and the use of emergency controls. The company should have done more to verify the competency of the workers to operate the relevant EWP.”

The salt stacker has a long conveyor that transports harvested salt onto a stockpile, and its highest point is around 30 metres above ground level.

Dampier Salt, a Rio Tinto joint venture, is the world’s largest exporter of seaborne salt. The company has operations in Port Hedland, Dampier and Lake Macleod.