Cobar drowning 2014

11/06/2014 - CSA Mine Cobar NSW - Drowning

A mine worker was attempting to clear a drainage borehole in an underground sump at the mine. While walking in the water his legs became trapped in the borehole and he was submerged. The pressure of the water draining from the sump prevented him from escaping. Rescuers were unable to revive the mine worker.

This accident claimed the life of James Hern


This incident highlights the importance of an effective risk management program in relation to works in and around underground sumps and water bodies. The following recommendations are advanced to improve industry safety and in turn reduce the likelihood of similar incidents occurring in the future.

When considering the recommendations below, mine operators are reminded of their obligation to take a combination of measures to minimise the risk, if no single measure is sufficient for that purpose.

Recommended practice for industry

Mine operators must identify and control the risks associated with work in and around underground sumps and water bodies.

The risks associated with underground sumps and water bodies must be managed using the hierarchy of controls.

Elimination, substitution and engineering controls should be used where reasonably practicable.

All underground sump drain holes should be appropriately guarded and adequately identified.

All work involving underground sumps should be appropriately planned, risk assessed, documented and supervised.

Fit for purpose equipment should be used to block and unblock sump drain holes.

Mine operators should conduct regular reviews of their mines safety management plan to verify critical controls are in place for major hazards.

Company officers are reminded of the importance of their responsibilities and obligations in regard to section 27 of WHSA.