Billabong Gold fined after two workers injured

Worker’s were lucky as the incident could have been fatal.
Date: Friday, 22 December 2023

Billabong Gold Ltd has been fined $550,000 plus costs of $4,670 after two workers were struck by tooling that ejected under pressure from a hydraulic ram at the company’s Plutonic gold mine.

The company pleaded guilty in the Carnarvon Magistrates Court yesterday to being an employer that caused serious harm to an employee.

In April 2020, two men were working to change the bucket on a Sandvik loader which required them to insert two large pins to connect the bucket to the loader’s frame. The tooling configuration included a porta-power hydraulic ram.

While the men were working inside the bucket alongside the ram, there was a loud bang and tooling from the configuration ejected under pressure.

The tooling struck both men with one suffering serious facial fractures and the other receiving a laceration to his forehead. The workers were transported to the site medical centre before being flown to Royal Perth Hospital by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Acting WorkSafe Commissioner Sally North said the men were lucky as the incident could have been fatal.

“One of the workers had not completed any training or verification of competency in hydraulic rams while working at the company,” Ms North said.

“The company’s safe work procedure for bucket changes was also deficient.

“The procedure did not specify the equipment and tools required for the task, the associated hazards or a process for installing the pins.

“Unfortunately, at least one of the workers thought the safe work procedure allowed the task to be completed ‘any way you want’.”

Ms North said it was common industry knowledge that pressure from a hydraulic ram could create a risk of objects being ejected.

“Mine operators must confirm employees are appropriately trained and competent for the required tasks,” she said.

“Mine management must also apply good risk management practices to their site’s work planning and scheduling, and check the correct technical information is available for the task at hand.

The Plutonic gold mine is an underground operation located around 300 kilometres northeast of Meekatharra in the Mid West of Western Australia.