CQ miner's mega pay day after devastating work injury
"LOOK out mate, she's coming down."
Those are the six words Marc Love heard milliseconds before a workplace accident that destroyed almost all aspects of his life.
The 37-year-old can no longer work as he now suffers from chronic pain with shooting pain in his back that travels across his right shoulder, down his right arm and into his index finger and thumb, leaving them tingling and numb.
This is followed by muscle spasms and tension headaches.
Rockhampton Supreme Court Justice Duncan McMeekin this week handed down his judgment in a landmark compensation case, awarding Mr Love more than $1.35million.
On August 12, 2010 at North Goonyella Coal Mine, Mr Love and a workmate were working with a roof bolting machine weighing 40-48kg when it fell from a height, striking him on the back of his head and knocking him unconscious.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Love explained how after the accident, his symptoms would present one to two days a week. Within four years, it was three to four days a week and now it is constant, with days where his whole arm is so numb he cannot move it.
He was working as a haul truck driver in the mining industry in 2014 on a seven days on, seven days off roster when the pain interfered with his ability to work and provide for his family.
"I realised something greater needed to be done because it was affecting my income, my ability to pay my mortgage, to look after my family," he said.
Mr Love said he still thought it was a simple matter of his neck not being in alignment.
He saw a GP in late 2014 who ordered an MRI of his neck area after hearing his medical and injury history.
The MRI showed a 30% crush of the C5 and C6 vertebrae, possible fracture of the vertebrae and single level degeneration of the disc in between.
The GP sent the bill for the MRI to Workcover so the costs would be covered by the company Mr Love worked for in August 2010 at the time of his accident.
Within weeks, Mr Love lost his job and at the time, his wife was six months pregnant.
"I went back. It's the first time I've begged for my job," he said. But Mr Love did not get his job back.
"I was desperate. I still had a mortgage and a family to try and provide for so I went back to civil construction and labouring and just found it was too hard on my body," he said. "I couldn't cope."
After two or three weeks of trying to do this line of work, Mr Love had to stop.
Next, he initiated his income protection to live off and went back to the GP who recommended he seek legal advice.
That's when he met the team at Macrossan and Amiet Solicitors in Mackay.
"This judgment is the culmination of many years' effort attributed to Graeme Crow QC, Sarina Family Practice, treating specialists, CFMEU, family and friends," he said.
'I admire him': Solicitor
A 65-year-old solicitor who has worked on a lot of mining workplace compensation cases hailed Mr Love a hero.
On Friday, Macrossan and Amiet Solicitors senior director Gene Paterson said the unique factor of Mr Love's case was that he was brave; willing and eager to take the stand to say what happened - something many others don't like to do.
"I admire him," Mr Paterson said.
Rockhampton Supreme Court Justice Duncan McMeekin handed down his judgment in the compensation case this week, awarding Mr Love $1,356,976.87.
On August 12, 2010, Mr Love and drill operator Clint Saliba were working with a roof bolting machine known as Rambor when it fell from a height, striking Mr Love on the back of his head and knocking him unconscious.
It was discovered by Mr Saliba that a person wearing a blue shirt with the North Goonyella logo on it had unplugged a compressed air hose attached to the Rambor machine, which was not tagged.
At the time, Mr Love and Mr Saliba were employees of Wilson Mining which had been contracted by North Goonyella Coal Mine to carry out specialist expertise work, dealing with emergency response and long wall recovery after roof collapses. The work they were conducting on the day of the accident was 'secondary response' work.
North Goonyella, according to court documents, argued the mine site was not liable to pay compensation as Mr Love was an employee of Wilson Mining.
The defendant also argued the person in the blue shirt, who was never identified, was actually a contract worker, not an employee of North Goonyella and they were not liable for the actions of contract workers on the mine site.
North Goonyella also argued it was Wilson Mining's responsibility to tag hoses.
Justice McMeekin disagreed.
"In my view it is strongly arguable that North Goonyella should be held responsible for the negligent acts of these third party employees," he wrote.
"In my view North Goonyella breached its duty to provide a safe system of work in failing to have in place, and enforcing, a system of tagging out of the air supply valve when in use such that permission to interfere with the hoses had to be first obtained from the users, and instructing all those in the mine that air hoses were not to be used unless and until the permission of those using them had been obtained.
"There is no doubt here that North Goonyella's enterprise has created the risk that produced the tortious act."
How the accident happened
Marc Love was assisting a drill operator - Clint Saliba - working to put bolts in the roof of a coal mine, two kilometres underground, when disaster struck.
The Rambor machine they were working with lost air supply causing an extendible drill leg to fall on Mr Love's head. They had been working to reattach the Rambor extendible leg to a drill steel stuck in the roof.
The Rambor's extendible leg pushes out via air pressure. The air came from a hose suspended from the ceiling of the mine which was connected back to a main underground supply located out of sight and some distance away.
"We had positive air feed on pushing it up (the extendible leg to reattach the drill steel)," Mr Love said.
"We both believed it was safe to exit the danger zone and in doing so, we lost air pressure.
"It dropped a couple of inches which was enough for it to topple unexpectedly."
Mr Love was standing next to Mr Saliba and had turned to walk out of the danger zone.
He recalled Mr Saliba calling out to him milliseconds before he was struck in the head by the drill bit.
Justice Duncan McMeekin's judgment papers show the operator gave evidence saying "Look out mate. She's coming down, and, yeah, when it came down it hit Marc."
Mr Love said he doesn't remember much of what happened next as he was in a daze. The next thing he remembered was being in the first aid room above ground.
Mr Saliba told the court "it'd hit Marc on the side - on the side of the head, on the helmet, and ... it's knocked him unconscious briefly."
He said he placed Mr Love against the wall in a sitting position.
"I said 'you right mate? You right' and he goes 'me neck, mate. Me neck'," he said.
Mr Saliba said he ran to get help, onto the travel road to look for a phone.
"At this stage, I saw a guy that was, you know, not far up the roadway where our hoses were running and he .... had two hoses in his hand, re-joining the hoses," he said.
The court heard the man with the hoses had been operating an underground loader and was wearing a North Goonyella uniform, but he was never identified by anyone as Mr Saliba went for help for Mr Love and the man with the loader was gone by the time he came back.
Mr Love said he was taken from the first aid room on site to the Moranbah Hospital by ambulance where he waited five hours to see a doctor who prescribed him one dose of pain killers and discharged him, without taking x-rays.
Mr Love said the following day, his neck was stiff, feeling somewhat like a sprain wrist but in the neck region.
He said he returned to work days later.
Mr Love said the other factor in his life that kept him going during the 'dark days' was his now two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Harmony.
"Without her, I don't think I'd be here," he said.
"I've had some pretty black days. "She's been my source of light."
Moving forward, Mr Love will undergo surgery with hopes of rehabilitation.
However, there has been some debate as to how much impact the surgery will have with specialists suggesting between 50-80% success of rehabilitation. He will have his C5 and C6 fused.
"I could still be left with numbing and tingling," Mr Love said.
He said it was hoped the operation would take away the shooting pain and should resolve the muscle spasms.