NSW: $70,000 fine issued after opal field fatality

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Tuesday, 9 February, 2021 - 15:30
Incidents & prosecutions
New South Wales

A $70,000 fine and conviction was recently handed down over an incident that resulted in the death of a worker at a mineral claim in the Mulga Rush Opal Fields near Lightning Ridge.

The conviction and fine in the District Court of New South Wales followed prosecution by the NSW Resources Regulator over an incident in November 2016 when a worker received fatal injuries while working at the mineral claim.

The Court also ordered that Tony Glenn Cummings pay the prosecutor’s costs, as agreed or assessed, and that 50 per cent of the fine (moiety) be paid to the regulator.

Mineral claim 44507 is in the Mulga Rush Opal Fields, about 40 kilometres southwest of Lightning Ridge.

At the time of the incident, Cummings and Siegel (the deceased) were actively mining the claim with the consent and knowledge of the claim holder.

The worker was fatally injured when he and another worker were working at the mineral claim on 4 November 2016.

The workers were using a hydraulic hoist and bucket to transport earth and rock, known as mullock, from the working face to the surface. Shortly before 3pm, the bucket failed to return from the surface.

The worker lowered himself into the sump shortly before the bucket free fell down the shaft striking the worker, resulting in fatal injuries.

On 1 October 2020 Judge Scotting convicted Cummings for failing to comply with a health and safety duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 that exposed a worker to a risk of death or serious injury contrary to section 32 of the WHS Act.

Cummings was conducting an undertaking at the mine and worked the mine under an agreement with Siegel to split the profit equally on the basis that he supply the equipment to be used to conduct the mining activities. Cummings was the owner of the hoist installed at the mine.

The Court found Cummings had a duty to ensure, in so far as reasonably practicable, the hoist was without risk to the health and safety of any person and his capacity to influence and control the hoist imposed a duty on him to take the steps to modify the hoist.

The failure to modify the hoist was a cause of Siegal being exposed to a risk of death or serious injury.

“The Court’s decision sends a strong message that the community expects mine operators, persons with management and control of plant and persons that supply plant to comply with their work health and safety obligations,” said the Resources Regulator’s chief investigator Andrew McColm.

“This matter serves as a timely reminder to WHS duty holders to ensure they have appropriate controls in place to protect workers.”