Potash miner ‘put many lives at risk’

Boulby mine, near Staithes'w141423a'Picture by Gary Simpson
Boulby mine, near Staithes'w141423a'Picture by Gary Simpson
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Hundreds of staff were put in danger by the behaviour of a Boulby mine employee, it was claimed this week.

Former Mines Rescue Technician Stephen Angus was fired last July after it was alleged he failed to make sure enough people were trained rescue workers.

This would have prevented staff at the mine responding effectively in an emergency, but the 54-year-old told a tribunal on Tuesday that the firm was regularly short of trained rescue workers.

“I tried everything in my power to keep the levels high,” Mr Angus told Teesside Crown Court. “I would have regular conversations with managers and I tried to explain what the situation was with the rescue teams.”

Mr Angus was accused of failing to manage the rescue team at the Cleveland Potash mine after it was found that six people had not received the necessary training.

With over 300 workers heading down the potash mine each day, it is important that rescue workers be trained in how to deal with an emergency, with at least 20 available on each shift.

However, when asked by Tom Coughlin, representing Cleveland Potash, if he had told informed his employer that the number of trained workers was below 20 he said: “Constantly throughout my career in the rescue team I have informed management when people did not train and were not compliant and it was a given that we just got on with it.”

He told the hearing that shift managers said training must be done on rest days, which was unpopular and said he had constant battles with managers over the matter. He said: “I felt very responsible for the position I was holding.

“I was unaware at the time that anything was out of order. If anything was out of order I would always bring it to light and address it by informing the managers.”

Mr Angus is also accused of failing a duty to maintain the required standard of breathing apparatus.

Cleveland Potash states that Mr Angus’ misconduct would have “compromised the effectiveness of any emergency rescue operation, exposing the employees to a greater risk of harm”.

Former managing director Graham Clark said: “It happened before and it will happen again I’m sure.”