Cowal mine fall blamed on removed guard rails

The Cowal gold mine. Image: Evolution Mining.

The New South Wales Resources Regulator has found that an accident at the Cowal gold mine in 2018 was caused by an attempt to access a scissor lift with removed guard rails.

The accident resulted in spinal injuries to a contract worker after he fell one metre from the scissor lift before passing away in September as he succumbed to complications during surgeries.

The resources regulator also identified follow-up factors such as inadequate worker supervision; unauthorised plant modification; and failing to sufficiently define work methods, follow change management requirements and conducting a risk assessment when the new work method was proposed.

Although risk assessments were conducted before the removal of guard rails to move the scissor lift beneath a structural base, none of the assessments referred to risks associated with operating the scissor lift with the guards removed.

The worker was also not qualified to undertake work from a height, but was issued a harness to complete the task, which was not connected to the platform of the lift.

Investigations by the Incident Cause Analysis Method (ICAM) found that it was not uncommon for guard rails to be removed from scissor lifts when placing them into position.

However, ICAM did deem it uncommon to have staff operating the lift from the working platform with the rails removed when Australian New Zealand Standard 4024.1601 noted that it must be “securely fastened” to the work platform.

“The investigation found that had the workers walked the scissor lift under the steel support, this incident would have been prevented,” the regulator stated in the investigation report.

“It is recommended that mine operators and contractors review their procurement processes to ensure that mobile plant is fit for purpose, having regard to the environment where it will be used.”

The regulator also recommended that procedures incorporate adequate risk management practices, staff allocations to be reviewed to show sufficient levels of site experience and workers to be educated about the degree of harm that could occur as a result of falls from heights.

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