'Stoic' miner wins $720,000 payout after haul truck accident
A FORMER mine truck worker described as "stoic" didn't complain about a work-related injury for three months because "supervisors didn't like complaints".
Austria-born Oskar Franz Krobath, 55, was working at Burton Downs Coal Mine in the Bowen Basin as a trainee operator employed by Thiess when the accident happened on October 31, 2011 - one month after he finished his traineeship.
Mr Krobath, who lives at Eungella, started working in the mines after a 26-year career as a chef during which he worked at Parliament House for four years, along with the Hilton on Park Hotel in Melbourne and the Victorian Arts Centre.
Records tendered with the court during the trial show that before he started his traineeship as an operator with Thiess he earned $12,148 gross in 2008 and was earning $134,185 per annum once he finished his traineeship.
The decision handed down by Justice Graeme Crow on December 20 awarded MrKrobath $719,698 for lost wages, medical expenses and other finances.
About 5.50pm, Mr Krobath was driving a haul truck next to an excavator when the excavator operator swung the digger boom and bucket loaded with about 75tonnes of rock and material.
The load dropped into the back of Mr Krobath's truck, resulting in Mr Krobath being violently tossed about in the seat where he was restrained by a lapsash belt.
The load contained one particularly large rock that was about 2-3m by 3m.
Mr Krobath first sought medical help for back and left leg pain on November 23, 2011, where he advised Dr Susan Hodgens at Walkerston GP Super Clinic of a workplace incident involving sudden jarring to his back from loading large rocks. "The plaintiff did not attribute his back pain to the incident alleged in the statement of claim until December 12, 2011," the decision stated.
"The plaintiff did not report a work-related injury to the defendant until February 29, 2012."
Mr Krobath has since had three lumbar discectomy operations on his back and is expected to need a fourth in the future.
He currently has 28per cent permanent impairment, however Justice Crow noted "it is a consequence of Mr Krobath being stoic that he is able to carry on with his life despite his serious condition".
"Mr Krobath has given a consistent version that he did not feel the onset of pain in his lumbar until the next morning when he started going for his walk," he said.
A Dr Atkinson gave evidence, saying it was a common phenomenon to experience an onset of lumbar pain up to 24hours after an incident.
When questioned why he didn't immediately report the incident, MrKrobath said while giving evidence at the trial: "Supervisors didn't like complaints. My position was in jeopardy if I complained or raised my voice too often."
Justice Crow noted Mr Krobath's comment was backed by an experienced mine worker who gave evidence during the trial.
Mr Hancock gave evidence he attended a pre-start meeting where a haul truck operator had brought up the problem "about large rocks being loaded", to which the response was that "the foreman at the time pulled all the truck drivers together and said 'you're not working in a sandpit, you're working in a mine'".
"It is logical that Mr Krobath, having received a vast increase in his income, having trained for and successfully obtained a position as a permanent operator at a coalmine, would not wish to place that high income earning ability in jeopardy," Justice Crow said.
Mr Krobath said he did not wish to challenge the excavator operator because as "digger operator on the mine site, they are the kings. If you challenge them, they show you the way out of the door".
Four prior similar incidents were recorded in Thiess' Health Safety Environment reporting system:
On June 15, 2011, a MrMcKay reported suffering from instant pain in his lower back as a result of an excavator loading blocky material into his haul truck.
On June 22, 2011, a MsMcLean complained of suffering pain in the lower back, which was jolted and bounced due to the weight, size and material being loaded from an excavator into the rear of her dump truck.
On June 29, 2011, a MrParsons complained of suffering from a muscle strain in his lower back, requiring him to stop work and spend a day resting in camp before he was taken to the Mater Hospital with a back injury caused when his rear dump truck was loaded by an excavator with a large rock.
On September 25, 2011, a Mr Leon complained of suffering injury to his neck while his rear dump truck was loaded with large blocky material and rock by an excavator.