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Rio Tinto (RIO) has been fined $80,000 and forced to pay $7500 in costs today after three employees were exposed to extreme conditions without sufficient training, resulting in the death of a worker. Source: Rio Tinto
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  • Rio Tinto (RIO) has been fined $80,000 and forced to pay $7500 in costs today after three employees were exposed to extreme conditions without sufficient training
  • Paul Fogerty, a 49-year-old senior field technician, died in 2017 while he was conducting exploration reconnaissance for potential drill sites in extreme conditions
  • Each day, the three men had to walk more than 16 kilometres in temperatures that were expected to be greater than 37°C while carrying equipment and supplies
  • A Rio Tinto spokesperson “extended our deepest sympathies to Paul’s family and friends”
  • Shares in RIO are down 0.57 per cent to $95.89 at market close

Rio Tinto (RIO) has been fined $80,000 and forced to pay $7500 in costs today after three employees were exposed to extreme conditions without sufficient training, resulting in the death of a worker.

Paul Fogerty, a 49-year-old senior field technician, died while he was conducting exploration reconnaissance for potential drill sites in extreme conditions.

On October 14, 2017, two employees and a supervisor were searching for possible drill sites in tough terrain while working at Mount Windell in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The job was done over two days in temperatures that were expected to be greater than 37°C.

Each day, the three men had to trek more than 16 kilometres in hard circumstances while carrying equipment and supplies.

Rio Tinto Exploration had a number of policies and procedures in place to address the dangers associated with exposure to excessive temperatures, such as hydration monitoring, recognising heat stress signs, and implementing appropriate treatment.

The three personnel doing the reconnaissance were unaware that they needed to perform heat stress tests.

This process reveals that muscle cramps and dehydration are indications of heat stress that, if not treated properly, can progress to life-threatening conditions such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

One of the employees fainted and ultimately died at the end of the second day after complaining of leg pains and feeling dehydrated the day before.

While other reasons contributed to the worker’s death, heatstroke is difficult to foresee and might strike unexpectedly, the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) said.

A person suffering from heat stress should be treated right away with proper cooling.

Although the actual temperature of the worksite is unclear, the nearest weather station at Wittenoom, 48 kilometres away, reported temperatures of 37.8°C on the day of the employee’s death and 37.4°C the day before.

DMIRS acting director Sally North said businesses must ensure that employees are aware that working in severe conditions, such as hot, humid weather, might result in heatstroke.

“The company had written procedures in place but they were not well known or understood by some workers or enforced by some supervisors,” Ms North said.

“As at October 2017, the company did not provide these workers with a specific training program to educate them about the causes, symptoms and treatment of thermal stress.”

A Rio Tinto spokesperson “extended our deepest sympathies to Paul’s family and friends” and said that the health and safety of “our colleagues and communities is our first priority”.

The company pleaded guilty in the Perth Magistrates Court for failing to ensure the safety of employees.

Shares in RIO were down 0.57 per cent to $95.89 at market close.

RIO by the numbers
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