Mining company fined after worker suffers significant hand injury

Worker safety must be number one priority.
Date: Monday, 27 March 2023

One of the Mid West’s largest mining operators has been fined $120,000 and ordered to pay $7,459 in costs after a worker suffered a significant injury to his hand when it became trapped in unguarded machinery.

Karara Mining Ltd appeared in the Perth Magistrates Court today after pleading guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment.

On 21 January 2019, a worker was hosing off the upper proximity sensor on a dart valve at the company’s magnetite mine site which is around 200 kilometres south-east of Geraldton.

The worker put his hand into an unguarded section at the top of the dart valve which spontaneously operated and trapped his hand. He was able to contact the control room and after some initial confusion, the control room operator closed the valve and the worker withdrew his hand.

After receiving treatment on site, the Royal Flying Doctor Service flew the worker to Perth for further medical attention.

The crush incident resulted in serious injuries requiring major surgery.

Dart valves are commonly used to control the flow of slurry between storage tanks. The dart valves at the company’s processing plant were capable of automatic operation, and required occasional cleaning and maintenance.

Acting WorkSafe Chief Inspector Mines, Christina Folley said Karara Mining should have installed physical guarding to prevent access to the danger point.

“This incident was clearly avoidable, but unfortunately a worker has suffered permanent injury,” Ms Folley said.

“The dart valve did not have the required guard to restrict access, and its moving components created pinch and shear points.

“Mine operators must proactively undertake risk assessments on all plant and machinery to identify, assess and control all hazards that expose workers to risk.

“They should also ensure that workers performing cleaning and maintenance work are adequately instructed, trained, assessed and supervised.”

After the incident, Karara Mining installed guarding on the dart valves and conducted an audit that identified around 200 other unguarded valves that could potentially allow access to pinch points