Yarrabee coal mine at Bluff.
Yarrabee coal mine at Bluff. Contributed

CQ coal miner sues for $800k after hazard report was ignored

JOHN Plahn says he knew his CQ coal mine workplace was unsafe.

He says he wrote a hazard report in the hope his employer would fix the dangers but they didn't and months later he had an accident that would leave him unable to work.

He knew it could happen so he tried to avoid it.

And now he is suing his employer for more than $800,000.

John Mervyn Plahn, now 68, of North Rockhampton, was employed as a coal miner worker by Downer Blasting Services, to work at Yarrabee Coal Mine near Bluff.

Mr Plahn communicated he had concerns with equipment at the reloading area at the mine, where motorised augers were used to load ammonium nitrate into mobile processing units.

The court claim states workers were required to stand on a orange plastic step to reach the chute handle to open and close a metal door.

Mr Plahn regarded this step as highly unsafe as the ground near the storage trailers was very uneven. There was also the chance for workers to overbalance and fall while on the step, along with the step moving as the worker's weight shifted to the front.

All of this was outlined in Mr Plahn's potential hazard report he handed to Downer staff in mid-November 2015, stating there was "no safe way to reach the trailer chute handle to open and shut the chute door on the A.N storage trailers".

Mr Plahn's report suggested that a concrete bump stop and connecting concrete apron be built at the base of the motorised auger, however, it is understood nothing was done.

Following this, the claim details on January 1, 2016, Mr Plahn was loading ammonium nitrate from a tipper trailer into the hopper of one of the motorised augers.

Mr Plahn said he placed the orange plastic step beside the hopper at the base of the motorised auger on the left-hand side.

When he was on top of the step carrying out the duties, he fell.

Mr Plahn's knee was extremely painful following the incident. He was treated by on-site paramedics and then medical staff at the Rockhampton Hospital.

He sustained damage to his right knee, including a tear in his medial meniscus, bruising and aggravation of pre-existing right knee osteoarthriti,s and later developed chronic depression, for which he takes medication.

He underwent a total knee replacement on March 14, 2016 and a further surgery in September.

Mr Plahn still continues to suffer from pain and stiffness, using stairs is difficult, he is unable to sit or squat and uses medication to alleviate his pain.

He has not been able to return to work since the incident.

A court claim was submitted on behalf of Mr Plahn by Murphy Schdmidt Lawyers, Brisbane, on August 13 in the Rockhampton Supreme Court.

The claim is against Downer Edi Mining-Blasting Services, Mr Plahn's employer, and Yarrabee Coal Company, the owner of the coal mine where the incident occurred.

Mr Plahn is suing for an amount about $810,000 for a range of damages from general, past and future wage and superannuation loss, treatment and pharmaceutical expenses.

It is estimated if the incident hadn't happened he would have been able to work until he was 70, and he requires medical care until he is 86.

A defence to the claim has not yet been filed.

Downer Group and Yancoal both declined to comment as the matter is before the courts.