Electrician Paul McGuire died on May 6, 2014 at Grasstree mine.
Electrician Paul McGuire died on May 6, 2014 at Grasstree mine. Tony Martin

Fatal job card: Mining giant fined $137K over death

MINING company Anglo Coal has been fined $137,500 for sending electrician Paul McGuire to a lethal area, where he died almost instantly from asphyxiation.

In Mackay Magistrates Court on Wednesday, Magistrate Damien Dwyer said that in 2014, four separate job cards had been issued directing different employees to an incorrect location at Grasstree mine to work on a gas sensor.

Three times - in February, March and April - an employee had gone to the location. On two of those occasions, the employee had returned and made a note on the job card that the sensor was no longer there.

Mr Dwyer said that on May 6, 2014, Mr McGuire collected a job card with the incorrect sensor location.

He went to the area and opened the hatch with a spanner.

Behind the seal, a used section of mine had been allowed to cave in, in an area called a 'goaf'. The area was so lethal that Mr McGuire died almost instantly.

Mr Dwyer said it was "incomprehensible" that the company's systems had been in "such a shoddy state".

"It is not as if this was a sudden, one-off incident," he said.

Anglo American pleaded guilty in October to failing to discharge a health and safety obligation.

Mr Dwyer said he'd read "heart-wrenching" victim impact statements. Mr McGuire's death had profoundly affected his wife, two daughters, extended family and co-workers.

He said Anglo had no criminal history and was "otherwise a good corporate citizen". The company had assisted the family with funeral costs and a scholarship for the children's education.

Mr Dwyer said it was "simply unacceptable" for Anglo to say the "failures of the system did not reach levels of management".

In a hearing in October, the company's lawyer, Geraldine Dann, said Anglo had taken significant steps since the incident.

Those included that it is now a requirement for electricians to be accompanied by a deputy for such jobs and that on each shift deputies inspect areas to ensure 'no road tape' is in place.

Mr Dwyer said the maximum penalty for the offence was $550,000.

He fined Anglo $137,500, a quarter of the maximum, and ordered the company pay $1500 in professional costs to the prosecution.

Paul's final hours:

Magistrate Damien Dwyer outlined the minute-by-minute actions of mining electrician Paul McGuire on the day he was killed at Grasstree mine.

  • 11.15am: Paul McGuire arrived on his shift. He collected his job cards and got to work.
  • 12.18pm: Mr McGuire arrived at the pit bottom.
  • 12.23pm: He phoned the control room and said he would go to perform gas calibrations at two stations.
  • 12.53pm: Mr McGuire completed one gas calibration. He contacted the control room to say he would go to 901 Tailgate to complete another.
  • 12.55pm: He spoke to other underground coal miners and told one the location he was going to next.
  • 1.05pm: Mr McGuire opened the hatch at 901 Tailgate with a spanner. He inhaled irrespirable air and died.

Call for tougher penalties:

MINING union CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth said it was "insulting" that Anglo had been handed a fine following Mr McGuire's death.

"If you kill a worker, you should go to jail. Workers deserve to know their lives are not being put at risk when they head to work - and their families should know their loved ones will return home," he said in a statement.

"Anglo is a global mining giant and this fine is not even a blip on their radar. What will they learn from this lesson? Nothing - they will keep putting the health and safety of workers at risk."

Mr Smyth called on the State Government to toughen penalties.

Anglo has been contacted for comment.