Worker sacked after snack goes horribly wrong

A MINE WORKER who blamed an apple that broke his tooth for swerving a monster truck off the road onto a divider has lost his Fairwork case.

Brett Frethey claims the pain was so excruciating for 5-10 seconds, he can't remember flattening a 1.824m-high dirt divider to 0.538m with a Caterpillar 797 rear dump truck at the Dawson Mine at Moura near Biloela. 

It was also "probable" Mr Frethey damaged the truck in the incident, shearing off the bolts and breaking the holding bracket during the impact which saw the truck quickly slow from 40km/h to 6km/h. 

Weeks later, the boss of Dawson Mine sacked Mr Frethey for walking off the site without reporting it.

"I had an instant and stabbing pain shoot through my entire head and I completely lost focus as to what was happening," Mr Frethey said in a statement.

"This lasted for approximately 5-10 seconds before I was able to gain control of my senses.

"By this time I had driven through the intersection. I recall that I grabbed the retarder to slow myself down but I cannot recall anything else during this period."

MONSTER TRUCK: The mine worker didn't report the crash where he drove onto a dirt mound dividing two roads.
MONSTER TRUCK: The mine worker didn't report the crash where he drove onto a dirt mound dividing two roads.

Moments after the incident, Mr Frethey, who busted a tooth years ago on the footy field, threw back some Nurofen and kept working for 30 minutes until the pain became too much he knocked off.

His supervisor, Clinton Ross Dixon, discovered the damaged divider about an hour and 15 minutes later, which he said was "significantly flattened and there were tyre tacks running through it".

He shut down the road to preserve the scene, and then gathered photo evidence.

Disputes between Mr Frethey and Mr Dixon began years ago, with Mr Frethey given official warnings on two occasions according to his termination letter.

In one dispute in January, 2014, Mr Dixon claimed Mr Frethey "spoke to him aggressively" after refusing to operate a vehicle "without a valid reason".

During a second dispute, it was claimed Mr Frethey hit a shovel in one of the mine's vehicles, damaging it.

Anglo Coal's paraded out a line-up of bosses to give evidence against him, one of which, Tony Power, the mining operations manager, "did not accept that Mr Frethey did not know that he hit the (divider)" and "found his story to be totally implausible".

The CFMEU asked Brendan McDougall, an engineering consultant, to comment on the chance Mr Frethey might not have known that he had flattened the divider.

But Mr McDougall hadn't seen the key piece of evidence that would be fatal for Mr Frethey.

In a meeting, investigators claim they gave Mr Frethey another chance to confess to driving over the divider.

"I'm not sure. I don't think so," Mr Frethey said.


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In another meeting shortly after, Anglo Coal's investigators played video footage from a GPS system named the "Leica system" that captured every vehicle's movements. 

"After viewing the footage, Mr Frethey stated that he could have hit the bund but did not remember it," Fairwork documents detailing Anglo Coal's investigation state. 

He later conceded: "I'm willing to admit after the evidence that yes, it may have been my truck, yes."

Mr Power read out Mr Frethey's termination letter, saying: "By failing to immediately report the incident and preserve the scene of an incident, you left a critical control damaged and ineffective, exposing all coal mine workers operating on the circuit to an unacceptable level of risk."

The case was detailed in a Fairwork Commission hearing where Mr Frethey claimed he was wrongly sacked.

But the Commission found that Mr Frethey probably knew he had hit the divider.

"… the inconsistencies in Mr Frethey's evidence are so significant that it is more probable than not that he knew that he had contacted the bund at the point when he drove the truck along the top of the bund," the Fairwork's decision document states.

"And/or Mr Frethey realised that the truck was damaged when he parked it up after it had hit the bund.

"Mr Frethey was involved in a significant safety breach and was not honest and forthright in the investigation."

Mr Frethey declined to comment. 

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