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Fined over the death of a North Yorkshire miner


2:58pm 18th July 2012
(Updated 3:32pm 18th July 2012)

UK Coal has been fined over the death of a North Yorkshire miner.

46 year old Ian Cameron died at the Kellingley Pit when equipment fell on him in 2009.

UK Coal pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches.

They included failing to ensure powered roof supports were properly maintained and breaches at the coal face itself.

UK Coal's been fined £200,000 and ordered to pay further costs of £218,000.

In addition global machinery supplier Joy Mining Ltd were also fined and today ordered to pay costs in relation to Mr Cameron's death.

It admitted failing to send out its bulletin warning of a dangerous defect in their powered roof supports.

Joy Mining Ltd was fined £50,000 for its offence with £100,000 in costs.

Details from the Health and Safety Executive

UK Coal and global machinery supplier Joy Mining Ltd were today ordered to pay a total of £568,000 in fines and costs for serious breaches of safety that led to the death of Yorkshire pit worker Ian Cameron.

UK Coal Ltd, of Harworth, Nottinghamshire, and Joy Mining Machinery Ltd, of Worcester, were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court today (Wednesday 18th July 2012) after both had pleaded guilty at earlier hearings to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

UK Coal had admitted failing to take steps to ensure the safety of workers using powered roof supports.

Joy Mining admitted failing to send out its bulletin warning of a dangerous defect in their powered roof supports.

The prosecutions were brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following a painstaking investigation by its Mining Inspectorate into Mr Cameron's death at Kellingley colliery on 18th October 2009.

Leeds Crown Court was told that 46 year old Mr Cameron died as a result of his injuries when a powered roof support (PRS) lowered spontaneously, crushing him against large amounts of debris that had accumulated within the walkway of the support.

The PRS was one of several hundred supplied to UK Coal by Joy Mining, each weighing some 15 tonnes and designed to support 510 tonnes.

Mr Cameron, a face worker at Kellingley with 30 years' experience, died in hospital shortly after the incident.

Leeds Crown Court heard that a solenoid valve within the powered roof support had become worn and defective. The result was that hydraulic fluid was able to pass under pressure through a valve and cause the PRS canopy to descend without the control button being operated.

A similar solenoid malfunction on a PRS made by Joy had happened in Australia the previous year, 2008. The company issued a warning bulletin but failed to circulate it within the UK or provide it to UK Coal; nor did Joy notify them of the incident until after Mr Cameron's death.

HSE's Mining Inspectorate found that PRS's installed where Mr Cameron worked had been salvaged from another coal face at the mine and assessed by UK Coal as fit for transfer with limited maintenance. The solenoids on the PRS's were not rigorously tested.

From the outset of production in April 2009 the PRS's had numerous faults that were recorded but not corrected. They included burst hoses, faulty solenoids and broken or defective parts. UK Coal was aware of the problems but regarded them as production issues rather than a significant risk to the safety of workers.

On 18th October 2009, Mr Cameron was operating a PRS and a colleague was working separately nearby. More than two feet of broken stone debris had built up in the walking track and leaving just under 30 inches' clearance between the top of the debris and the underside of the PRS canopy at full height. Only a few hours into the shift, the hydraulic feed system had tripped out nine times, at least seven caused by a burst hose. Mid-morning the colleague noticed Mr Cameron could not be seen but saw that a PRS had lowered. He disabled the machine and called a supervisor for help. Together they raised the PRS and found Mr Cameron face down under the canopy in a crawling position on top of the debris. Other miners swiftly came to help and he was taken to hospital but died soon after arrival.

UK Coal Mining Ltd, of Harworth Park, Blyth Road, Harworth, Notts, was fined £200,000 for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Heath and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 with £218,000 in costs. No further penalty was imposed a breach of Section 3(1) of the same Act.

Joy Mining Machinery Ltd of Bromyard Road, Worcester, was fined £50,000 for its offence under Section 6(1)(d) of the legislation, with £100,000 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector of Mines Paul Bradley said:

"HSE brought this case because of the serious safety failings uncovered during investigations.

"This is the fifth prosecution HSE has had to take against UK Coal in the past five years involving the deaths of five miners, each under very tragic circumstances.

"Our testing after this incident showed that the defective solenoid caused the PRS to lower under power without warning and it most likely happened when hydraulic pressure was restored after one of the trips to the system.

"There were also a significant number of safety critical defects on other PRS's and commissioning checks on them had not been fully carried out. The build-up of debris in that part of the PRS meant less than 750 mm of clearance to travel through.

"UK Coal disregarded the numerous warnings and frequent failures of the PRS's and failed to take effective measures to ensure the debris was removed and the walking track kept clear.

"The company needs to demonstrate very robustly that they will learn and act upon the many issues raised as a result of Mr Cameron's death."

He added:

"Joy Mining Machinery Ltd is a global supplier of underground machinery and had supplied hundreds of powered roof supports to UK Coal Ltd for use in their mines.

"That it failed to distribute within this country the Safety Bulletin warning of the solenoid risks or notify one of its major customers is an error of quite staggering proportion and a serious failing in its duty of care."

Mrs Carol Cameron, Ian's widow, said:

"I would like to thank the Health and Safety Executive for bringing both UK Coal and Joy Mining Machinery to court to answer for their part in the death of my loving husband, Ian.

"I also want to thank the National Union of Mineworkers for their support and guidance during what has been a very harrowing time for me and my family.

"Words cannot describe how life has dramatically changed for our family. Ian was not just a husband and father, he was my soul mate and a fantastic father to Kailum and Charlotte.

"Every day I feel empty and every day I wish he was still with us, where he should have been. All of our family have been devastated by the tragic death of my lovely husband, Ian.

"I am glad that justice has been seen to be done in bringing both UK Coal and Joy Mining to account for their obvious shortcomings in health and safety and the proper maintenance of machinery, which resulted in Ian's death back in 2009.

"I and my family continue to suffer greatly as a result of the Ian's death. We are relieved that the Court proceedings have come to an end and that both companies have admitted responsibility."

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