East Otago mining company Oceana Gold has admitted liability
for an accident in which an employee lost a finger while
working in the company's underground mine at Macraes Flat
Oceana Gold was represented by counsel in the Dunedin
District Court this week when it pleaded to a Health and
Safety in Employment Act charge.
The company admitted failing as an employer to take all
practicable steps to ensure the safety of Johnstone Henry
Lyle Palmer by protecting him from hazards arising from his
use of a cable bolter cement handling unit at the Frasers
underground gold mine on Golden Point Rd on July 2.
The facts summary from the Ministry of Business, Innovation
and Employment said Mr Palmer worked as a ''nipper'' with
another employee, Michael Gibbons, operating a cable bolter
cement handling unit used in the strengthening the roofs of
Roof bolts were installed in drilled holes in the roof and
tensioned to bind to the surrounding strata before
cement-based grout was pumped between the cable bolts and the
On July 2 last year, the two men had problems pushing the
cables into the holes drilled in the roof. The delay caused
the mixed grout to harden in the mixing bowl and it could not
be pumped into the holes. That meant they had to clean the
grout from the bowl.
They were going to do that with a water blaster but it was
not working that day, so Mr Gibbons removed the lid,
activating an interlock to stop the mixing paddles operating,
and used his hands to remove grout from the top of the bowl.
Mr Palmer used a lower pressure hose to flush water into the
bowl's outlet, which was normally closed by the dump valve
but had been opened by Mr Gibbons using a switch above the
bowl. After Mr Gibbons opened the valve, Mr Palmer placed his
left hand inside while using the water hose. The steel dump
valve guard was not in place.
About the same time, Mr Gibbons inadvertently bumped the
valve control switch and Mr Palmer's hand was caught between
the valve and the outlet. He called to Mr Gibbons to open the
dump valve so he could pull his hand free and was taken to
hospital in Dunedin.
His finger could not be reattached. The company had failed to
ensure the steel guard was in place over the dump valve, the
summary said. Mr Gibbons remembered seeing the guard on the
cable bolter when the machine was on the surface and later,
when it went underground.
He had been associated with the machine's operation for about
15 months and could not recall seeing a dump guard in that
time. After the accident, the metal guard was found nearby.
It was being used as a container to store spray cans.
Who had removed the guard, which was originally bolted to the
machine, was not known. Neither was it known why or when it
had been removed. Had the guard been fitted, Mr Palmer would
not have been able to access the closing valve.
The company could have ensured the dump valve was fitted with
a guard, the summary said. The dump control valve operating
switch was modified after the accident to prevent its
And the hazard of people catching their hands in the dump
valve had been identified by the manufacturer of the cable
bolter, because the machine had been supplied to Oceana with
Practicable steps the company could have taken to prevent the
accident were the guarding of the dump valve, checking the
guard had been replaced if it was removed and changing the
management process so if a person wanted to remove the guard,
it was handled in a controlled manner to manage the hazards.
Judge Stephen Coyle remanded Oceana for sentence in May.