Pit bosses face sentencing over safety breaches

Kellingley Colliery
Kellingley Colliery

A judge will sentence former pit bosses tomorrow over two safety breaches at Kellingley Colliery, one of which killed a miner.

Defunct company, UK Coal Mining Ltd, will be fined on Tuesday over the death of Gerry Gibson who was buried by 15 tonnes of rock following a roof collapse in 2011.

The business, which went into administration in July, will also face penalties for a methane gas explosion at the Weeland Road pit in 2010, in which more than 200 miners had to be evacuated.

Bernard Thorogood, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, told Leeds Crown Court today how Mr Gibson was following normal working procedures at Kellingley Colliery on September 26 when part of the roof collapsed.

He and another colleague, Philip Sheldon, were buried by falling rock and colleagues tried to dig them both out with their bare hands.

Mr Sheldon suffered minor physical injuries in the incident and was taken to hospital.

But the 46-year-old dad-of-two could not be saved and died from asphyxiation.

Mr Thorogood told the court problems with the roof were not a “one-off event” and pit bosses had failed to tell workers about a similar incident in the vicinity just five days before.

He said measures were taken to replace broken roof bolts following the incident on September 21, but the investigation was “poorly planned, badly communicated and inadequate.”

He added: “This was a readily forseeable event and the company fell well below the appropriate standard.

“The defendant failed to heed the warnings presented by the first roof fall. It was a significant event which should have had a robust and thorough investigation.”

Stuart Deeney, mitigating, said an additional roof support had been put in place after the first roof collapse, but due to a lack of communication between management and workers underground, it was removed on September 26.

He added: “We didn’t do enough after the first fall. We didn’t respond sufficiently or put our plans into operation properly.”

UK Coal will also be sentenced tomorrow for safety failings leading to a pit explosion in November 2010.