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Mining Safety Back In Spotlight After UK Coal’s Latest Fine For Failings

Company Prosecuted For Fifth Time In Five Years


Workplace injury experts at Irwin Mitchell have described news that UK Coal has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for the fifth time in five years as an “alarming sign” that a review of mining safety is desperately needed.

The company has been fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs in relation to safety failings which led to the death of a pit worker in West Yorkshire in October 2009, with machinery supplier Joy Mining also being ordered to pay £50,000 and costs in relation to the work accident.

Leeds Crown Court heard that Ian Cameron died when a powered roof support, supplied to UK Coal by Joy Mining, lowered spontaneously and crushed him against debris within the walkway of the support at the Kellingley colliery.

The HSE’s mining inspectors found that the support was assessed by UK Coal as fit for transfer from another coal face with limited maintenance, even through solenoids fitted on the machine were not properly tested. It was a defective solenoid which led the support to descend.

News of the prosecution in relation to the fatal accident has come at the end of 12 months when mining safety has been in the spotlight following major accidents at sites across the UK, including the Gleision colliery in south Wales where four miners lost their lives.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist accident at work team represent victims left seriously injured in mining accidents, as well as the families of those killed in all kinds of workplace incidents.

David Urpeth, national head of the workplace injuries team, said: “This fine is a significant and worrying sign that a full review of mining safety involving both safety authorities and the industry as a whole remains an absolute priority.

“This fifth prosecution in five years, twinned with the awful tragedies seen last year, shows that health and safety has been a huge concern now for some time and action is urgently needed to address these problems.

“We have seen how such accidents can leave a devastating mark on so many families, while victims who survive such incidents are often left with life-changing injuries from which they never fully recover.

“Because of this, it is clear that these kinds of problems simply cannot be repeated anymore and a stand must be taken to ensure that information from these incidents is properly examined and shared. Such a strategy should guarantee that the entire industry can learn the hugely important lessons which will go some way to preventing further tragedies in the future.”