A miner at Coppabella was sacked for crashing a car in a restricted access area.
A miner at Coppabella was sacked for crashing a car in a restricted access area. Jacob Miley

Miner who crashed in 'no go' area gets the sack

A MAN sacked for crashing a car at Coppabella Mine has had his unfair dismissal claim rejected in court.

And now the union that represented him is looking at appealing the decision.

The man, Andrew Hill claimed at a Fair Work Commission hearing that he was not in a 'no go zone' and not speeding when the car he was in crashed into a bund wall on July 20, 2016.

The 45-year-old was sacked a month later by the mine owner Peabody because it found he was not driving to the conditions and entered a 'restricted access area', breaking the company's safety procedures.

In the show cause notice sent to him after the crash, Peabody claimed he had entered a 'no go zone' that had been off limits for a week because of heavy rain.

Entry into a no go zone would have been a breach of the company's Cardinal Rule 3.

Mr Hill's main argument to the commission was that he didn't break the company's Cardinal Rule 3 because the area was not classed as a 'no go zone' but was a 'restricted access area'.

And on the night it poorly lit at 4.15am when the crash happened, the 'restricted access area' signs had been covered in mud and kicked aside.

"(Mr Hill also) submitted that there was no valid reason for the termination...as (Peabody) did not articulate what policy (Mr Hill) had breached," Fair Work commissioner Paula Spencer's decision notice reads.

"The restricted area at the mine was not signed or delineated and significant work was being performed in the area and a reasonable person would have believed that the area was no longer restricted."

Peabody claimed that Mr Hill was told it was a restricted area during a pre-start meeting that day and that he had to ask for permission from a supervisor before entering.

It conceded the show cause notice sent to Mr Hill after the crash termed the area a 'no go zone' but the area was signed as a 'restricted access area'.

However claimed it decided to sack Mr Hill on the basis that crash happened in a 'restricted access area' and that entering there without approval was still a breach of the company's safety procedures.

Peabody also claimed due to the extent of the damage to the vehicle, the wheel assembly was wedged horizontally under the car, he couldn't have been travelling at the maximum allowed speed of 40kmhr when it was wet.

Yet Mr Hill claimed he drove to the conditions and had previously told his supervisor the car wasn't suitable to drive because it didn't have spotlights, mudguards and had a cheap system to measure its speed.

When handing down her decision on May 18, Commissioner Spencer found that even though the initial show cause notice stated Mr Hill had breached the Cardinal Rule of entering a 'no go zone' he was sacked on the basis he had entered a 'restricted access area'.

Commissioner Spencer found the dismissal was not harsh, unreasonable or unfair.

CFMEU state organiser Stephen Smyth said they were looking at the prospects of an appeal based on the outcome.


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