Safety Alert

Worker’s arm injured in belt press filter
Incident date: 17 May 2020.
Event: Worker sustains serious injuries in work-related incident.
Location: Moolarben Coal Operations – Coal Handling and Processing Plant (‘the CHPP’)
A worker opened guarding around an operating belt press filter in order to correct a misaligned belt. He
lost his balance while moving towards the filter, causing his arm to become caught between the belt and
a moving drum. He sustained serious arm injuries which required surgery.
Figure 1 – Location of belt press filter where the worker’s arm became caught
Point of entanglement
Approximate location of worker’s arm when
the emergency stop was activated.
The mine
Moolarben Coal Operations is located 40 kilometres north of Mudgee, in the western coalfield’s region
of NSW. It consists of open cut and underground mining areas. Mined coal from these areas is processed
at the CHPP. There are eight identical belt press filters used at the CHPP to remove moisture from reject
material from washed coal.
Moolarben Coal Operations Pty Ltd (MCO) is the mine operator and is owned by a joint venture
comprised of Moolarben Coal Mines Pty Ltd, Sojitz Moolarben Resources Pty Ltd and a consortium of
Korean energy companies. MCO and Moolarben Coal Mines Pty Ltd are wholly owned subsidiaries of
Yancoal Australia Limited.
The incident
About 10am on 17 May 2020, a worker observed that the belt on belt press filter 3 (‘the filter’) was out
of alignment with a rotating drum. The worker stated that the belt had lost alignment because the
hydraulic air lines servicing the filter’s tracking drum and tracking limit switch had become separated,
resulting in a loss of air pressure to these components. The worker opened several doors in the guarding
around the filter, using a key that he was authorised to use. The worker requested assistance from his
supervisor by radio and began reconnecting the air supply.
The worker restored air pressure to the above components. He believed that the tracking drum would
straighten the misaligned belt as it rotated. However, the tracking limit switch on the filter was designed
to stop the plant from operating when a metal prong referred to as a ‘cats’ whisker’ contacted a
misaligned belt. In order to override this function and allow the tracking drum to continue to turn and
align the belt, the worker removed the ‘cat’s whisker’ by disconnecting it from the limit switch.
The worker was moving towards a rotating drum located in an area where the guarding had been
opened. He stated that he lost balance and reached out to what he thought was part of a fixed structure
adjacent to the drum. His left forearm was caught between the belt and the rotating drum. The drum
had rotated approximately 135 degrees, when the supervisor arrived in response to the worker’s earlier
radio message. The supervisor and another staff member activated the filter’s emergency stop and
reversed the drum to release the worker’s arm.
The worker was airlifted to John Hunter Hospital where he underwent surgery for arm and wrist
Figure 2 – Filter 3 with cat’s whisker removed Figure 3 – Adjacent filter with cat’s whisker fitted
Figure 4 – Proximity of filter to the open guard door
The investigation
The NSW Resources Regulator is investigating the incident. The mine operator is cooperating with the
Safety observations
Entanglement between moving parts is a foreseeable risk. Mine operators are reminded of their duty to
identify hazards and manage risks to health and safety associated with the operation, maintenance and
cleaning of plant.
Mine operators and workers must ensure that when guarding around plant is removed for maintenance
or cleaning purposes, all energy sources are isolated. Consideration must be given to installing interlock
devices that prevent unguarded plant from operating when risks are present. Guarding must be
restored to its secured position before the plant resumes operation.
Where it is identified that guards must be removed to complete a particular task while the plant is in
operation (i.e. when replacing belts on filters) , a risk assessment must be undertaken and additional
controls implemented to ensure that risks are reduced as low as reasonably practicable.
Mine operators should review:
◼ Division 6 of Part 5.1 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017, in particular clauses
208 and 210.
◼ SafeWork NSW – Code of Practice – Managing the risks of plant in the workplace.
Further information
Please refer to the Code of Practice – Managing the risks of plant in the workplace.
About this information release
The Regulator has issued this information to draw attention to the occurrence of a serious incident in
the mining industry. Further information may be published as it becomes available.
Visit our website to:
◼ learn more about our work on causal investigations and emergency response
◼ view our publications on other causal investigations

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