Mining company fined after worker’s arm trapped in a conveyor

WorkSafe Commissioner Sally North said that the worker was extremely fortunate
Date: Monday, 08 July 2024

Big Bell Gold Operations Pty Ltd has been fined $400,000 plus costs of $5,743.30 after a worker’s arm was trapped in a conveyor at the company’s Bluebird gold processing plant located 24 kilometres north-west of Cue.

A subsidiary of Westgold Resources Ltd, Big Bell Gold today pleaded guilty in the Perth Magistrates Court to failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment under the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994.

On 21 February 2020, two workers had been contracted to remove built up material with tools from under a conveyor while it was still running.

Despite the conveyor belt being protected, a person could reach under the guarding and access dangerous moving parts as the guarding stopped around 800 millimetres above the ground.

One of the workers became entangled in the return roller and belt while clearing builtup material from underneath the operational conveyor with a shovel.

A co-worker pulled an emergency lanyard to stop the conveyor and used a crowbar to lift the belt, allowing the contractor to remove his arm. The contractor received lacerations on his left arm.

WorkSafe Commissioner Sally North said that the worker was extremely fortunate not to lose a limb.

"Companies must implement and enforce suitable isolation procedures for plant and machinery and ensure nip points are always adequately guarded,” she said.

“In this instance, the worker had completed a one-hour online safety induction, but it did not cover conveyor safety or isolations.

“This was the supervisor of the jobs’ first day overseeing the plant and he had not received any specific training to perform that role.

“Companies must ensure all workers have the required training and assessed as competent on the tasks assigned to them.

Ms North said WorkSafe remains concerned with the increasing number of serious incidents involving conveyors where guarding is inadequate or absent.

After the incident, Big Bell Gold extended the conveyor guarding and reinforced safety training protocols.

WorkSafe’s code of practice outlines the hazards associated with machinery, including unguarded conveyors.

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