CFMEU investigator Stephen Smyth at the closing of the inquest yesterday. He prepared a report on the fatality on behalf of all miners.
CFMEU investigator Stephen Smyth at the closing of the inquest yesterday. He prepared a report on the fatality on behalf of all miners. Tony Martin

Miner's death prompts action

MINERS, lawyers and the family of Jason Blee packed into courtroom number four yesterday to make sure his death was not in vain.

When the inquest into his death started on June 22 last year, his family placed his hard hat in the corner, beside a photograph of Jason holding his newborn child, as a reminder that the Moranbah North miner was more than a statistic.

Now, more than two years after his death, Coroner Annette Hennessy has made recommendations which could change the mining industry nationally.

Jason Blee, a 33-year-old father, worked for Walter Mining as an underground miner and was in Anglo Coal's Moranbah North mine when he was pinned to a side wall by a shuttle car on April 9, 2007.

The coroner ruled that he died of a pelvic crush injury “as a result of an adverse incident which occurred while miners were following approved safety procedures”.

It was clear he was injured while trapped, but there were three movements of the shuttle car in a bid to free him and because of conflicting evidence from witnesses the precise movements of the shuttle car remain unknown.

There was no evidence that the shuttle car's design contributed to the incident.

Jason Blee was not in a “no go” zone but was in a restricted area. He gave an appropriate command to the shuttle car driver to move out before he was pinned and the heading in which he was working was not excessively narrow.

“Management of Jason's injuries was appropriate and caring but the nature of the injury was such that there was no other possible outcome for him,” Mrs Hennessy said.

A total of 18 recommendations were made - most importantly, that all parties involved in a fatality should combine to form a joint investigation panel, so they shared information, did not duplicate work, and that they be given 'privilege' against the use of sensitive information.

Jason's wife, Rachel, spoke about her husband at the inquest and said: “He loved life. He loved the ocean, loved to fish and water ski and go camping. He was so keen on V8 Supercars it wasn't funny.”

Yesterday, after receiving condolences from everyone, she took Jason's mining helmet home.

Coroner's recommendations Among the recommendations made by Coroner Annette Hennessy yesterday were:

  • Mining companies and police should review the issue of notification of next of kin.
  • Minister for Mines and Energy Geoff Wilson should consider tripartite investigations for all serious mining accidents, with each party given privilege so possibly-detrimental information can not be used against them in any jurisdiction other than an inquest.
  • Alcohol and drug testing should be done on all people associated with an incident and results should be provided to police.
  • All underground mines should review interactions between pedestrians and moving machinery and should also review the use of “no go” zones.
  • Each underground mine must be equipped with airbags to lift or push heavy equipment off trapped people.
  • A working party should be formed to meet with shuttle car designers to consider improvements to shuttle cars.
  • The Department of Mines and Energy should liaise with all emergency services to familiarise all emergency providers with the workings of mines and the terminologies used by miners, possibly as part of an induction course.
  • Consideration should be given to establishing an across-the-industry recognised system of competency for miners' qualifications.
  • Minister Geoff Wilson should give consideration to requiring all mines to provide details of all their Occupational Health and Safety systems and the mines should update them annually.
  • Standards of risk assessment should be reviewed.
  • The Department of Mines and Energy should make a SIMTARS (Safety in Mines Testing And Research Station) reconstruction of the Jason Blee fatality and provide it to the mining industry as a training and education aid.
  • Future autopsies should be done by a forensic pathologist who has access to advanced equipment and all autopsies should at least include photographs and x-rays.


Telling next of kin
Scene set for inquest into miner's death

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