Two mine workers were lucky to escape with only minor injuries when a loader collided with the light vehicle they were travelling in at NSW underground mine late last year.
A safety alert issued by NSW Mine Safety yesterday outlines a cocktail of safety breeches that led to the accident including malfunctioning safety equipment, un-charged batteries and failure to follow safety procedures.
NSW Mine Safety did not release the name of the mine where the accident occurred, nor the exact date of the incident.
The driver of the light vehicle was transporting loader operators from two different work places to the crib room when the incident occurred. The loader operator failed to see the light vehicle in the tunnel ahead of him and consequently collided with the vehicle.
All three personnel involved were trained and experienced loader operators familiar with the workplace and operational conditions and visibility were good.
The Safety Alert said that the driver of the light vehicle driver did not attempt to contact the loader operator as the driver believed the radio in the light vehicle could receive but not transmit (this was possibly due to a low vehicle battery voltage. The radio was tested after the incident and found to be fully functional).
The rotating beacon light on the light vehicle was most likely not working. The switch for the beacon was found to be in the ‘off’ position after the incident, or it was ineffective possibly due to a low vehicle battery voltage.
The red “bogging-in-process” warning light (which requires positive contact with the loader operator before advancing) at the entrance to the workplace, was not in use. There was no hard barrier at this point of entry to the workplace.
The passenger of the light vehicle was not using a seatbelt at the time of the incident and the driver did not enforce the requirement to wear a seatbelt.
The light vehicle driver saw that the crusher light was red (which means that loaders should not tip – unless the light turns to green). The driver could not hear the loader operating. The driver then assumed that the loader was parked and that the loader operator was waiting for collection. In the time taken to drive around the tipple and into the tramming tunnel, the crusher light turned to green. The loader operator resumed tramming and was unaware of the presence of the light vehicle.
The light vehicle driver and passenger did not follow written safe work procedures (SWP) when accessing the incident area nor did the driver follow safe work procedures when collecting the light vehicle passenger from the other workplace immediately before the incident.
The written procedures, and training material, did not clarify a course of action to be taken in the event of a radio malfunction. The light vehicle pre-start procedure required the light vehicle driver to test the effective operation of the radio.