TRAGEDY: Father Paul McGuire was killed in a mine gas trap in May 2014 at Grasstree mine.
TRAGEDY: Father Paul McGuire was killed in a mine gas trap in May 2014 at Grasstree mine.

Mine failed to identify access to lethal area as a risk

UPDATE 1PM THURSDAY: CORONER David O'Connell has questioned why the easy access to a potentially lethal mine goaf was not identified as a risk in the mine death inquest of Paul McGuire.

The 34-year-old father of two died after opening a hatch to a goaf inside Grasstree mine and was engulfed by irrespirable air on May 6, 2014.

Mackay Coroners Court heard the location where Mr McGuire was found was in the process of being sealed off. At that point in time the hatch was only partially sealed, barred shut with a single bolt.

Former ventilation officer at the Anglo coal mine Shannon Coppard gave evidence under immunity that the sealing management plan for that section of the mine, which was approved by the Mines Inspectorate, had been based on a risk assessment of the area.

No road tape across an entry to the goaf inside Grasstree mine where electrician Paul McGuire was found dead on May 6, 2014.
No road tape across an entry to the goaf inside Grasstree mine where electrician Paul McGuire was found dead on May 6, 2014.

"Where in the sealing plan does it… address the issue of, until a hatch is finally sealed how do you prevent the possibility of a man walking through it," Mr O'Connell asked.

"We were told yesterday that they were left in a partially sealed state.
"It might just be that people didn't turn their mind to this."

Mr Coppard told the court accessing the hatch had not been identified as a risk as part of the sealing management plan.

"You didn't think it was a possible risk?" Mr O'Connell asked.

"No, no-one had ever known of it happening previously," Mr Coppard said.

CFMMEU lawyer Gavin Rebetzke raised that it had not initially been planned to put a hatch in the location where Mr McGuire died and the decision to put a hatch at that site had occurred after the risk assessment process.

Mr Coppard said that was correct, but added that there were hatches in the risk assessment process.

The court heard multiple people examined the sealing management plan to identify any possible hazards, which were then rated against the severity of the hazard, the likelihood of it happening and given and overall score.

Mr Rebetzke told the court the mine's risk matrix scored the potential exposure of mine workers to hazardous gas levels as insignificant.

Mr Coppard said the score took into account existing control measures already in place, the likelihood of that risk occurring and how many times it had happened before.

Barrister Michael de Warrd, for Mr McGuire's wife Melissa McGuire, asked why the hatch did not contain any warning signs.

"That would be something that would be a fairly easy task to do," Mr de Waard said.

"If it was identified as a… risk," Mr Coppard said.

The former ventilation officer defended his involvement in the sealing management plan after Mr de Waard asked if he thought he was experienced enough.

The court heard this was the first seal up he was involved in as the ventilation officer. He was previously involved in three other seal ups as the ventilation assistant.

"Do you think you were adequately experienced to be the ventilation officer for the seal up?" Mr de Waard asked.

"Yes… everyone has to have a first," Mr Coppard said.

The court heard his employment was terminated in October 2014 after making an error in relation to oxygen levels on a different job.

Mr de Waard also suggested Mr Coppard was "being untruthful" when he gave evidence about a conversation he had with Mr McGuire in March 2014 about sealing the goaf where the tragedy occurred.

Mr Coppard denied the claim.

The court heard Mr Coppard did not tell the Mines Inspectorate about this conversation with Mr McGuire while the death was being investigated.

Mr Coppard said "I wasn't asked" and he did not think it was relevant.

The inquest continues.

INITIAL: A MINING union lawyer has suggested a former Anglo supervisor made a "series of assumptions" the day a worker was found dead in a dangerous area within a Central Queensland mine.

Paul McGuire had been sent to calibrate gas sensors and died after opening a hatch to a mine goaf and inhaling toxic air on May 6, 2014.

Former mines supervising officer Jason Fairweather gave evidence during a coronial ­inquest after claiming privilege over self-incrimination.

READ MORE FROM THE INQUEST:

>Claims mine death victim should have known of goaf dangers

>CFMMEU lawyer probes investigation process

He denied his actions pointed to any inattention to worker safety.

Mackay Coroners Court heard an alarm indicating "high high" methane levels within Grasstree mine first went off at 1.07pm.

Mackay Coroners Court heard the job card Paul McGuire had been issued had the wrong location for a gas sensor inside Grasstree mine.
Mackay Coroners Court heard the job card Paul McGuire had been issued had the wrong location for a gas sensor inside Grasstree mine.

Some time after that, Mr Fairweather had a discussion with electrical engineer Scott Adams and a call was made that it was most likely a faulty sensor.

Mr Fairweather directed Mr Adams to check the sensors in an area, also having assumed that area had been inspected.

The court heard it had not.

Mr Adams' handheld gas monitor also showed a spike in methane gas, but he spent 20 minutes replacing and recalibrating a sensor before confirming the "high high alert" was real and officially raising the alarm. Mr Fairweather and then-ventilation officer Donald Zerner began investigating the source of the alarm at 2.26pm. Mr McGuire's body was found about 3pm.

The court also heard that after speaking with Mr McGuire that morning, Mr Fairweather had been under the impression the electrician was working in one section within the underground mine, however his body was found in a different area.

CFMMEU barrister Gavin Rebetzke asked if the "series of assumptions" made by Mr Fairweather suggested a "less than rigorous attention to safety". Mr Fairweather said "no".

Mr Rebetzke then asked if it would be desirable if Mr Fairweather had not made any assumption that could have affected the safety of workers, and Mr Fairweather agreed.

Mr Adams told the court he had worked with Mr McGuire on occasion.

"He was very confident, he was very safety minded, he was very proficient in his work," Mr Adams said.

Anglo Coal barrister Geraldine Dann asked Mr Adams about his knowledge of hatches in a mine and he said "stay away from them" and that they were not designed for human access.

The inquest continues.


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