A dump truck pulls in to be loaded up at Meandu Mine.

Photo Tessa Mapstone / South Burnett Times
A dump truck pulls in to be loaded up at Meandu Mine. Photo Tessa Mapstone / South Burnett Times Tessa Mapstone

Wake up warning for mines after $1.25m fatigue lawsuit

MIRANI MP Jim Pearce believes some mining companies "need to take a good look at themselves" when it comes to how workers get to and from their sites.

While he acknowledged most companies had fatigue management strategies in place, Mr Pearce said some miners were still driving home fatigued.

His comments come after Justice Duncan McMeekin earlier this month awarded former miner Harold Kerle $1.25 million in damages following a serious car crash.

Mr Kerle hit the road for a five hour drive home to Monto after finishing his fourth consecutive 12-hour night shift at BM Alliance's Norwich Park Mine near Dysart in 2008.

The former dump truck operator was left with structural brain damage when his car crashed into a bridge crossing on the Burnett Hwy.

The judgement, handed down in the Supreme Court at Rockhampton, found BM Alliance Coal Operations, contractor HMP Constructions and employment company Axial HR breached a duty of care in allowing Mr Kerle to drive fatigued.

>>Read the full story on the Supreme Court judgement here<<

Mr Pearce said he was not surprised the court action had taken place, but was sorry a worker had to be hurt for the issue to gain such attention.

"I know mining companies do have fatigue management plans and for me the question is just how serious they are about those plans," he said.

"I accept a number of companies do have bus services. But there are still situations where workers are driving long distances after a series of extended shifts.

"I think where a mine company has a fatigue management system in place, which still requires a worker to get behind the wheel of a vehicle, I believe those companies need to take a good look at themselves and get serious about the issue instead of having words in a document."

Mr Kerle's solicitor, George Cowan from Rees R and Sydney Jones, said the judgement was "a big win" for mining communities.

"Not only will the decision have ramifications for mining employees but also for the whole community," he said.

"Families regularly travel on the roads where fatigued miners are driving home after finishing their shifts - the community as a whole deserves the big companies to better manage fatigue in their workers and ensure all road users are safe."

Rees R and Sydney Jones solicitor Shannon Jennings added while some improvements had been made to fatigue management since 2008, the mining industry needed to take the issue seriously.

"In addition to this case, there have been two Inquests into fatalities on our roads due to fatigue related to the mining industry," she said.

"It is clear that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with to avoid further deaths and serious injuries.

"Justice McMeekin found controlling the length of shifts, providing a place to rest after completion of the shift, providing education and training to employees about fatigue and the provision of a bus service to transport workers home as ways to reduce the risk.

"The expert studies found that miners might think they are fine to drive home but they are not. We would encourage all miners to think about their safety and ensure they are utilising any measures provided for them by their employer ... before embarking on their journey home."

The Morning Bulletin was unsuccessful in contacting the companies involved in the case for comment.

The CFMEU did not respond before deadline.

The Queensland Resources Council declined to comment before the January settlement date.



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