Welding film ends Stracon mine work

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 19/06/2012

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Solid Energy terminated its contract with its Ohai mine contractor Stracon in March after an engineer was filmed welding while standing on top of a forklift platform without a harness or supervision.

Documents released to The Southland Times under the Official Information Act revealed the facts behind the incident, first reported in late February.

In December, a truck ran off the roadway at the mine, prompting its closure while Solid Energy and Stracon negotiated a health and safety action plan.

The second incident in February, after the mine had reopened, caused Solid Energy to end its contract with Stracon and take over operation of the mine itself.

Yesterday, Solid Energy's manager of opencast operations, Stephen Esposito, said the engineer used a telehandler, a forklift with a telescopic arm, to lift a platform three metres into the air before welding it to a container.

"[It was] without any safety harnesses in place or an operator present in the telehandler to control the machine and assist him," Mr Esposito said. "[It] was a potential high-risk health and safety incident."

Two documents, an email from John Howes, the health and safety and environment manager at the New Vale mine near Gore, to Michael Firmin, a Labour Department inspector, and a note of a telephone call from Mr Howes made by Mr Firmin, were released to the Times yesterday.

"John Howes phoned SE will probably terminate Stracon at Ohai," the note says. "Solid Energy video cameras caught operating [sic] using telehandler operating from outside vehicle."

The note says Solid Energy supervisors had left the site to go to Nightcaps at the time of the incident. It also mentioned Stracon was "not following process of council consents."

In his email, Mr Howes mentioned numerous failures from Stracon found during the investigation of the truck crash which it was supposed to address.

However, the incident with the telehandler had prompted Solid Energy to stand down Stracon again and consider its future employment, the email says.

"Stracon have failed to effectively implement the actions identified in their action plan to improvement [sic] their H&S performance on site."

Labour Department high hazards unit business analyst Rex Moir said inspectors had visited the Ohai and Takitimu mines in April 2011, when Stracon was the contractor. "No particular issues of concern were identified by the inspector relating specifically to Stracon Mining Ltd on either of these two visits," Mr Moir said.

Stracon refused to comment when approached yesterday.

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alex.fensome@stl.co.nz

- © Fairfax NZ News

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