Anglo Coal put workers at risk but not guilty of death

·2-min read

Anglo Coal put workers at risk by providing an unsafe piece of machinery at a central Queensland coalmine.

But a court has found the Moranbah North mine operator not responsible for the death of worker Bradley Hardwick in 2019.

Mr Hardwick had stopped the grader he was driving on an underground roadway, known as a drift, to access water to cool the engine on a hot February day.

The grader rolled backwards shortly after, gathering speed before it hit a vehicle used for transporting mine workers, known as a drift runner.

Both vehicles slid a short distance before coming to rest on the side of the drift.

After the collision, workers found Mr Hardwick lying on the ground with his feet toward the surface of the mine.

He had suffered fatal injuries, while three men on the drift runner were injured.

Magistrate Michael Quinn on Thursday found Anglo Coal not guilty of failing to discharge health and safety obligations causing Mr Hardwick's death and bodily harm to the three workers.

But he said the grader provided to Mr Hardwick had not been appropriately tested and had a faulty park braking system making it unsafe.

Anglo argued it had done all it could and had robust safety and health systems.

The company conducted a weekly park brake test, the last being days before the incident and Mr Hardwick did tests before entering the mine.

But serious faults were found in the park brake system after the incident.

Mr Quinn said Anglo had bitterly complained with some justification that the original equipment manufacturer did not detail the need for separate testing of the park braking system due to an unusual feature.

"But ... Anglo are not able to rely upon someone else not doing something that it was their duty to do."

The "proverbial smoking gun" was a 1998 schematic in Anglo's records warning of the braking system feature.

It stated application of the park brakes also applied the service brakes.

Mr Quinn said the schematic meant Anglo had been on notice about the feature from 2013 when the grader was introduced into the mine.

"I accept those facts that Anglo had access to those records at all relevant times, should have accessed them, should have understood their meaning and acted upon them," Mr Quinn said in handing down his decision on Thursday.

The court heard a loader in the vicinity of Mr Hardwick at the time of the incident and evidence of pathologists raised doubt about whether the grader caused the death.

Mr Quinn said he could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Anglo's contravention of safety regulations in relation to the grader caused Mr Hardwick's death.

Written submissions are to be made to the court regarding penalty for the contravention.