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UK Coal fined £200 000 over miner’s death

World Coal,

The former UK Coal Mining company was sentenced today after admitting a catalogue of serious safety failings that led to the death of miner Gerry Gibson at Kellingley colliery in 2011.

Gibson, from Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds, was killed when 15 t of rock forming a section of roof collapsed as a powered roof support was being operated. His death happened just six days after a similar roof fall in the same area of the mine with the same powered roof support in operation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Juniper Limited, the name given after UK Coal Mining Limited went into administration in July this year. Administrators had entered a guilty plea on behalf of the company at Leeds Magistrates at the beginning of October.

Insufficient precautions
HSE’s investigation found that UK Coal managers were fully aware of the earlier roof fall. However, despite the clear dangers posed to workers, no investigation into the failure of the roof support was carried out, and insufficient precautions were taken to prevent it happening again.

HSE also found the company had not improved the system of monitoring the roof supports to ensure warning signs of ground movement would be picked up quickly.

Unacceptable actions
HSE told the court that it was unacceptable for UK Coal to have allowed miners to continue to work in that part of the mine following the earlier roof fall without taking the following actions:

  • Carrying out an in-depth investigation into the cause;
  • Putting measures in place to prevent a recurrence;
  • Making workers fully aware of the potential dangers;
  • Establishing suitable procedures to ensure no one was in the area when the roof support was in operation.

The company was fined £200 000 after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was agreed that although prosecution costs were properly incurred they would not be awarded so as not to jeopardise any potential payments to the Miners’ Pensioners’ coal allowance scheme, a main creditor against UK Coal’s limited financial assets.

Tragic and preventable accident
After the hearing, HSE Mines Inspector John Whyatt commented: “Gerry Gibson and the men working alongside him were oblivious to the extent of the dangers posed when working near to that particular roof support. They had no reason to believe there were at risk from the roadway roof collapsing as it was being operated. This was a tragic and preventable incident that demonstrates the importance of employers having effective and robust safety management systems. Strong safety leadership is of paramount importance in incident prevention”.

Adapted from press release by Katie Woodward

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