Alcoa fined $210,000 over workplace death

Friday, 05 February, 2021

Alcoa fined $210,000 over workplace death

Western Australian resources company Alcoa of Australia Ltd has been fined $210,000 and ordered to pay $75,000 in costs, after a contractor fell to his death at the company’s Kwinana Alumina Refinery in 2015. The contractor was part of a crew removing scaffolding from inside a bank of processing vessels or ‘digesters’, which were offline for maintenance and refurbishment work.

The incident occurred when the contractor climbed up the digesters to where the entry points were located, inadvertently entering a digester where workers had already removed the scaffolding. The contractor entered the upper entry manhole backwards, expecting to drop onto a scaffold work platform but instead falling around 12 m. There was no barrier or guard on the manhole to prevent access and the digesters did not have markings to distinguish them from one another.

Mines Safety Director at the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety Andrew Chaplyn said the incident highlighted the need for mining operators to conduct thorough and ongoing risk assessments, and to implement appropriate control measures from the hierarchy of control. Chaplyn urged employers and workers to always ensure that safe work procedures are available, followed and enforced.

“Control measures remove or reduce the risk of injury or harm and include a series of steps ranging from the elimination, substitution and/or isolation of risks through to engineering and administrative controls,” said Chaplyn.

Chaplyn added that falls from height are one of the main hazards leading to fatalities and serious injuries in the mining industry.

“Mine operators must conduct detailed risk assessments of areas where workers could be exposed to fall hazards and they must take preventative measures,” said Chaplyn.

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