Northern Star Resources Limited fined $90,000

Northern Star Resources was fined $90,000 for failing to provide a safe working environment
Date: Tuesday, 04 July 2017

Northern Star Resources was fined $90,000 in the Karratha Magistrates Court last week for failing to provide a safe working environment and causing the death of an underground jumbo operator's offsider at Paulsen's Gold Mine in the Pilbara region.

On 15 November 2015, Adam Perttula was working underground in hot and humid conditions beside a Jumbo drilling machine installing ground support, approximately 900m below the surface.

Mr Perttula collapsed and was unable to be revived and died the next day. The cause of death was found to be heat stroke and exhaustion.

Department of Mines and Petroleum Mines Safety Director and State Mining Engineer Andrew Chaplyn said the department's investigation found the ventilation system was not functioning properly in the area where Mr Perttula was working, due to friction, rips, holes and partially tying off of the duct.

Several witnesses told investigators that they considered the mine to be a 'hot and humid' mine.

Magistrate Young said that there was no dispute that extreme heat was a recognised hazard.

He said the company had policies to deal with the hazard and was aware of the seriousness of the possible consequences.

It was noted the exposure arose in the ordinary course of operations and across the entire workings of the mine.

He said that that the ventilation was not reliable, consistent or adequate and that the duties on employers are binding and onerous, however, a deterrent penalty should operate as an incentive towards employers maintaining vigilance.

He noted the plea of guilty was at the earliest opportunity and the company displayed remorse, had an otherwise good safety record over a number of years and ordinarily has a responsible attitude to safety.

Mine safety regulations require that employers and managers at mines must ensure that employees do not suffer harm to their health from the adverse effects of excessive heat.

If conditions are hot and humid, employers must ensure that appropriate workplace environmental controls (including ventilation) and monitoring are implemented, and the manager of an underground mine must ensure that air flow installations in the mine are maintained in good order.

Although the mine had written procedures to deal with excessive temperatures, it failed to ensure that the procedures were followed.