The driver of a 2km-long train filled with iron ore that derailed in Western Australia in November has filed an unfair dismissal claim against BHP.
Lawyers for the man said his claim was lodged with the Fair Work Commission this week, three weeks after he was sacked.
“We say the decision is unfair for a raft of reasons, not least of which is blaming the worker for the accident when there were significant issues with the systems over which he had no control,” Timothy Kucera said.
“It’s a classic case of blaming the worker, not the system.”
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The fully laden train was deliberately derailed about 120km out of Port Hedland by BHP’s remote control centre in Perth on 5 November, destroying 1.5km of track and costing the company an estimated $55m a day until the track was repaired.
It had travelled for 92km without a driver after the driver stepped off the train to check one of the carriages and, BHP alleges, failed to properly engage the emergency break for the entire train.
BHP’s Western Australian iron ore asset president, Edgar Basto, said in November that the driver had left the train to disconnect a braking system control cable, which had caused the train to stop.
“Our initial findings show that the emergency air brake for the entire train was not engaged as required by the relevant operating procedure,” Basto told Australian Mining magazine.
“In addition, the electric braking system that initially stopped the train automatically released after one hour while the driver was still outside. Due to integration failure of the backup braking system, it was not able to deploy successfully.”
BHP confirmed the driver no longer worked for the company and said it could not comment on the unfair dismissal case “out of respect for the individual and their privacy”.