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Plant operators reminded of safety obligations after quarry death

The report detailed the New South Wales Mine Safety Investigation Unit’s preliminary assessment of the circumstances surrounding the death of Ryan Messenger at Hunter Quarries’ Karuah Quarry on the morning of Tuesday, 9 September.

The report stated that on the day of the incident, Messenger had been operating a 45-tonne excavator at the top of a quarry face. It was said that the gradient of the slope was yet to be determined but the report described a vertical drop of about 12m from the top of the face to the bench below, adding that there had been rainfall at the site in previous days.

According to the report, the excavator “rolled onto its left-hand side, down slope, resulting in fatal injuries to the operator”.

“A large rock was positioned between the excavator’s track marks,” the report added. “The excavator bucket was found to be holding a large rock weighing about three tonnes.”

The investigation currently continues, with the state mine safety unit examining the nature of the task Messenger had been undertaking as well as the factors that caused the machine to exceed its tipping point.

More plant safety consideration required
In the report, the NSW Mine Safety Investigation Unit stated, “The risk of roll over and tip over [in an excavator] is high unless precautions are taken. The risks associated with excavators traversing or operating on cross slopes are well known. Particular care must be taken when operating on slopes or near excavations and open holes. Planning for the work must include identification of hazards, risk assessment and control.”

The report also served as a reminder to plant operators of their obligations under the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, particularly clauses 214 and 215.

“These clauses require management of the risks to health and safety of powered mobile plant overturning and the use of operator protective devices,” the report explained.

The application and effect of clause 217 was also said to be pertinent to the case: “This clause requires a person with management or control of earthmoving machinery at a workplace to ensure that it is not used unless it is securely fitted with a protective structure.

“A protective structure means a structure designed to protect the operator from injury from falling objects or if the machinery rolls over. Consideration should also be given to tip over and flying object protection to protect operators.”

The NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 is available at

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Investigation of quarry worker death highlights safety

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