Refrigeration company fined over explosion

10-10-2011

A refrigeration business in Kyabram, Victoria has been convicted and fined $45,000 over an explosion that left an apprentice with third degree burns to 35 per cent of his body.

The worker was performing a service check on a commercial refrigerator in the cellar of Echuca’s Bridge Hotel in July, 2009 when the explosion happened.

He suffered third degree burns to his arms, face, back and hands and was flown to the Alfred Hospital where he was in a coma for eight days. He hasn’t been able to work since the incident.

WorkSafe Victoria’s investigation found there was a leak in an acetylene gas torch. This resulted in a build up of gas, which could not disperse in the poorly ventilated cellar space. The gas bubble erupted when the worker lit the torch.

The investigation also found his employer, Kanga Coolers Pty Ltd, failed to:

• Comply with regulatory requirements for working safely within confined spaces
• Assess the need for the worker to use personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses, gloves, fire retardant clothing or a fire extinguisher, as recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions
• Ensure the worker’s vehicle was adequately equipped to carry acetylene gas equipment in a secure upright position and ensure previous users had properly stored and transported the equipment
• Have a safe system of work in place for the regular inspection, cleaning and gas leak testing of the acetylene equipment
• Provide the worker with access to the acetylene equipment’s safety and operating instructions and be properly trained by his employer in accordance with those instructions.

Kanga Coolers Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Shepparton Magistrates’ Court recently to failing to provide a safe working environment and failing to provide proper information, instruction, training and supervision.

In sentencing, Magistrate Watkins took into account the company’s early guilty plea and stated remorse over the incident, but said the company had to accept responsibilities for its omissions.

Worksafe’s Construction and Utilities Division Acting Director, Allan Beacom said the incident should remind other businesses of the need to properly deal with flammable gases in confined spaces.

“This incident showed the devastating consequences of an explosion,” he said. 

“People should make sure cylinders, hoses and attachments are in good condition, turned off, secure and that there is proper ventilation in the event of a leak.

“While this young man suffered very serious injuries, the possibility of him or others dying was significant.” 

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