Father Paul McGuire was killed in mine gas trap in 2014. His death is the focus of a coronial inquest in Mackay.
Father Paul McGuire was killed in mine gas trap in 2014. His death is the focus of a coronial inquest in Mackay.

Mine safety system labelled ‘totally inadequate’

A MINE safety system has been labelled "totally inadequate" as the inquest into the death of underground electrician Paul McGuire wraps up.

Council assisting the coroner John Aberdeen said there were "missed opportunities" that may have prevented Mr McGuire's death at Anglo's Grasstree mine in May 2014.

The 34-year-old father of two had been calibrating gas sensors when he inhaled lethal air after he was wrongly directed to a partially sealed goaf.

Mr Aberdeen pushed for a specialist prosecutor to absorb mine death cases.

"At the moment there seems to be two systems running with respect to industrial fatalities," he said.

Mine deaths are handled by the commissioner and a "tripartite of principle stakeholders" the DNRME, mine operators and a union representative.

"There is an undercurrent of tension between parties in this industry … which cannot contribute to the most effective determination and implementation of safety measures in the coal mining industry," Mr Aberdeen said.

Other workplace deaths are handled by the industrial manslaughter prosecutor.

"There is no justification for two separate systems to prosecute matters," Mr Aberdeen said.

He told Mackay Coroners Court the system in place at the mine when Mr McGuire died "was totally inadequate from a safety perspective".

"Wrong descriptions were provided on job cards and there were failures to check the correctness of those particular cards," he said.

"There seems to have been no consideration of … basic sealing principles."

Mr Aberdeen, in his closing submissions, said the goaf area should have been signed and either fenced or petitioned.

Mr McGuire had opened a partially sealed hatched that was held shut with one bolt.

"It is an area in my submission, which could be addressed by the mining inspectorate," Mr Aberdeen said.

"The inspectorate has the power to publish standards, which are binding on the mines."

Counsel for Anglo, Peter Roney QC, pushed back at criticism over the approved goaf sealing plan arguing there had been no history in Queensland mining of anyone entering a goaf.

The court heard that just weeks before Mr McGuire's death another worker had nearly entered a goaf but was pulled back by a co-worker.

Mr Roney said this incident had never been released by the Mines Inspectorate at the time.

He described it as an "inadvertent death" and said, "he simply found himself slightly out of place".

Closing submissions continue today.


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