UK Coal fined following death at colliery

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UK Coal Mining Ltd has been ordered to pay £300,000 after an employee was killed by falling pipes at Thoresby Colliery.

Experienced locomotive driver John Harbron, 47, of Wellow, was working underground with colleagues when the fatal incident occurred on 24th July 2009.

He was preparing to unload a pack of 40 steel pipes from a rail-borne car, but when he cut plastic bands securing them in place they rolled sideways, fell off the car and landed on top of him.

Mr Harbron, who was married with two daughters and two grandchildren, suffered multiple injuries and died at the scene despite his colleagues’ efforts to release him.

UK Coal Mining Ltd, of Harworth Park, Blyth Road, Harworth, was fined a total of £125,000 and ordered to pay £175,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Nottingham Crown Court heard on Monday that 18 months before Mr Harbron’s death there had been four written reports by locomotive drivers about the instability of the pipes. However, managers failed to either read all of the reports or act on the concerns in them.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the pipe packs could not sit evenly on the type of car being used and could become unstable on tilted track.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Peter McGuinness said: “The failure of UK Coal to draw and act upon the experience and concerns of its employees and contractors was a tragic waste with tragic consequences.”

“Since the incident the company has changed the design and shape of pipe packs, the design of the packaging and the type of cars being used. Improvements have also been made to the reporting of near-misses and the handling of reports from workmen. Sadly, these changes came too late for Mr Harbron and his devastated family.”