The NSW Resources Regulator has issued a safety alert after a worker at a colliery in Helensburgh, in the state’s south, was sucked into an auxiliary fan during the installation process.
The worker was injured in the incident and lost consciousness due to pressure around his neck.
The worker was not able to free himself until his fellow workers came to his assistance and shut down the fan. He was transported to ground level and treated for his injuries, where he was then transported to hospital for further assessment and monitoring.
The fan was a new addition to the mine and had only been in operation for a week. While there was a risk assessment completed and a procedure implemented, there were some areas of concern identified, including:
- There was no determination regarding the safe operating range of the auxiliary fan (in terms of air quantity, air velocity or pressure) to allow for safely adding of ventilation ducting.
- There was no procedural detail about where the air velocity reading should be taken (i.e. 10 metres behind the miner or at the duct itself) and at what frequency.
- The procedure lacked detail about safe standing zones.
- The process steps for workers to install ventilation tubes safely required further development.
- There were no details about guarding requirements of the most inbye tube to protect loose items and debris being sucked into the duct or workers being sucked into or against the duct while working in close proximity (such as working on continuous miner platforms).
Ambulance NSW Illawarra duty operations manager Norm Rees explained that the worker was lucky not to have been more seriously injured.
“Whilst the injuries look minor on the surface, it could potentially have been worse and he had a fairly significant laceration to the side of his neck with some swelling, which could cause problems to his airways,” Inspector Rees said.
Insp Rees said it could have been a “catastrophic” incident.