Mandalay Resources Costerfield Operations Pty Ltd was sentenced on 27 November after pleading guilty to one charge for failing to maintain for employees a working environment that was safe and without risks to health.
The company was also ordered to pay $12,000 in costs.
The court heard an employee was extending steel mesh lining into a new section of tunnel at the company’s Costerfield mine, 50km southeast of Bendigo, when the rock fall occurred in May 2016.
A two-tonne piece of rock fell from the tunnel’s ceiling where the worker had just finished unbolting the leading edge of the existing steel mesh.
The worker was 1.5 metres away, preparing to overlay new mesh and refasten the rock bolts, when the rock fall occurred.
An expert witness told the court that this method for installing steel mesh was a departure from standard industry practice.
The court also heard that it was reasonably practicable for Mandalay Resources to use a system of work that did not require removal of the rock bolts while installing new steel mesh.
The employee has been unable to return to underground work since the incident occurred.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said an employee was left with long-term mental injuries because of a failure to meet basic safety obligations.
"Every worker should be able to go to work without their life being put at risk because of poor systems of work that expose them to serious injury or death," Ms Nielsen said.
"Mines are a high risk workplace and when incidents do occur they can leave workers physically and mentally scarred for life.
"Employers must ensure underground work is well planned and that the first priority is always the health and safety of workers."
During work in underground mines employers should:
- Install ground supports using recommended techniques and procedures.
- Ensure ground support activities are completed in line with planned ground support specifications and methodology.
- Complete geotechnical inspections and assessments for areas needing additional ground support.
- Routinely inspect active underground mine workings.
- Identify potential rock falls during safety assessments.
- Provide regular rock fall and ground support information and training to employees to assess the suitability of ground supports.
- Ensure any work to be undertaken is planned.
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