Miner fired man for being too fat after two years paid leave

BHP Coal will no longer have to compensate a morbidly obese worker the mining giant sacked because it considered his weight made him a danger to himself and his colleagues.

The company appealed the Workers' Compensation Regulator's decision ordering Peak Downs mine worker Jamie Bray be paid for the way they fired him.

Twelve days after he was fired on February 12, 2014, Mr Bray filed a compensation claim with BHP's workers compensation insurer for a psychiatric injury he said he suffered from being sacked without any warning.

But BHP's insurer denied the request.

A Queensland Industrial Relations Commission judgment recently made available to the public stated Mr Bray weighed about 160kg and was 176cm tall.

Mr Bray had been on paid leave from his $160,000 shift supervisor role for about two years to address weight and psychological issues.

When Mr Bray attended a meeting in Mackay with one of the mine's senior executives, Mr Iliffe, he believed it would be about his return to work.

Instead Mr Bray was fired.

BHP argued it sacked Mr Bray for his and his crew's safety, but agreed it should have forewarned Mr Bray he would be fired before the meeting.

Mr Iliffe and Mr Bray met in January to discuss his health progress and return to work.

After the meeting Mr Bray applied for a total and permanent disability claim and told the mine he wanted a bonus and to be moved to an office-based role.

Mr Bray was told there were no office positions available and later that month BHP offered Mr Bray the option of returning to work on a performance plan or receiving $300,000 as part of a separation agreement.

But Mr Bray said he wanted to work again.

Another senior site executive from the mine, Mr Milful, said Mr Bray had up to 25 people under his direction and it involved a "fair bit of physical work".

Mr Iliffe said the company had spent $40,000 in medical bills to help address Mr Bray's physical and psychiatric health, but had seen little action on Mr Bray's behalf.

A psychiatrist told BHP Mr Bray's mental health had improved.

But a doctor reviewing his physical health warned he urgently needed to address his obesity and suggested he possibly receive surgery to lower his weight.

The doctor's report stated Mr Bray's obesity made him susceptible to slipping and tripping and he was likely to suffer injuries to his knees, lower limbs and lower back.

The doctor also warned if Mr Bray became incapacitated he would likely impact the safety of his fellow workers if they tried to move him.

Industrial Commissioner Knight expressed sympathy for Mr Bray's mental problems, but said the issue of termination or mutual separation and his weight risks had already been raised between BHP and Mr Bray.

Topics:  bhp editors picks health mining obesity

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