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BHP facing unfair dismissal claim from driver of derailed autonomous train

BHP Group Ltd. is facing an unfair dismissal claim from the train driver who was sacked in the wake of a forced iron ore train derailment in Western Australia in November 2018, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Jan. 10.

The train, traveling on BHP's Newman-to-Port Hedland railway, was deliberately derailed by the miner's remote control center in Perth about 119 kilometers from its destination.

A preliminary investigation by the mining giant attributed the derailment to a combination of factors including brake system failure and incorrect operating by the driver.

The 63-year-old driver was dismissed Dec. 18, 2018, and an appeal against the decision was turned down Dec. 28, 2018, the report said.

"It is a classic case of 'have an accident, blame the worker not the system'," said Tim Kucera, who represents the former BHP employee in the case. "Essentially what we will be saying is that the decision to dismiss was unfair for a raft of reasons not least of which was blaming the worker for the accident when there were significant issues with the systems, [over which he had no control]."

Kucera added that the issues raised in the case are key in the wake of increased automation in the workplace.

BHP confirmed that the train driver was no longer employed by the company but declined to comment further on the case.

Australia's Transport Safety Bureau launched an investigation into the incident. A report is due in the second quarter.