A West Australian transport company was recently handed a $45,000 fine and a $2,900 costs penalty in the Perth Magistrate Court following serious ammonia gas burns to a contract worker, demonstrating a high degree of safety negligence.
Rand Transport, a cold storage food distributor, pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace where contractors were not exposed to hazards.
On 11 December 2014, during the construction of a dividing wall within a large cold storage room, Luke Passmore, a contractor for Bondor, was sprayed in the face with ammonia liquid and gas as it was released from a purge valve.
Passmore suffered serious chemical burns to his eyes, face and severe internal respiratory damage.
The purge valve was part of a live, forced air cooler unit suspended from the ceiling.
Passmore was operating a scissor lift at height, within a small restricted space. As he manoeuvred the lift, it struck the valve on the unit, releasing the pressurised toxic refrigeration chemical.
Rand knew the chemical was in the vicinity of the works and had not advised Bondor or their workers about the hazards or the risks, said WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns.
“The duty of care is extended to all people working for contracting organisations, including those from labour hire firms, and even passers-by,” Munns said.
“Providing the necessary information, delivering the proper inductions and appropriate training is an absolute occupational safety and health basic for every person in control of a workplace.
“This is an easy safety measure for employers to implement.
“Rand has taken the necessary steps after this young man was injured. Those measures should have already been in place.
“It was the responsibility of Rand to make sure Mr Passmore understood the need to maintain a safe distance.
“With proper risk assessment and appropriate controls like providing the correct working space, isolating the unit, using protective structures and attaching warning labels and signs, this accident would have been avoided,” Munns said.
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News article originally published on the 12 June 2018 by the Safety Institute of Australia