In 2011 the man filed a claim with the Supreme Court of Queensland seeking damages from his then employer, BHP Mitsui Coal, for a psychiatric illness he claimed was caused by ‘feelings of guilt’ concerning the mine disaster. The explosion at the mine on 7 August 1994 killed the co-worker who had swapped shifts with the man along with 10 other people.
The man has been diagnosed with ‘Major Depressive Disorder with symptoms seen in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ and he attributes the onset of the illness to the disaster and to the lack of any counselling offered by BHP in the aftermath.
BHP was first made aware of the claim 17 years after the disaster occurred.
The man claims feelings of guilt and his introspective brooding on the death of his work mates was the cause of his mental illness and his later alcohol dependency.
The man was not at work on the day of the disaster. He had been rostered on duty but because of excessive alcohol consumption the day before he decided that he was not fit to go underground.
The court report states, “It appears that the birth of his children triggered or exacerbated feelings of guilt that Mr Oram had at having survived when other children had lost their fathers in the disaster. He drank more, tended to stay away from home more, and hid from his wife his feelings, which he poorly understood. He had uncertified absences from his employment from time to time but no complaint was made about this by his employer until November 2013.”
The man’s application was dismissed by Justice Duncan McMeekin on Monday on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to link the man’s psychiatric illness to the mine disaster after 17 years had passed.