Charges laid after restaurant patrons burnt by butane gas fire

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Wednesday, 11 January, 2023 - 12:30
Incidents & prosecutions
Northern Territory

NT WorkSafe has charged a family partnership with six breaches of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 over a recent incident involving a gas butane fire.

The incident involved five patrons from a party of six dining at the restaurant, Little Miss Korea, who were burnt after butane gas ignited under the table they were sitting at. One patron escaped injury.

The six patrons were cooking their food on a barbeque grill unit using coal. The barbeque grill unit was also fitted with the butane gas canister, which was not used at the time of the incident.

The butane gas canister was manufactured with a Countersink Release Vent (CRV), designed to release the butane gas to prevent an explosion if the canister became over-pressured.

NT WorkSafe alleged the close proximity of the hot coals to the butane gas canister caused the canister to overpressure, activating the CRV and releasing the butane gas under the table. The build-up of butane gas subsequently ignited causing the injuries.

NT WorkSafe also alleged that despite clear warning signs on the butane gas canister, none of Little Miss Korea’s safety information, including staff safety induction, standard operating procedures, risk assessment or work health and safety policies, provided any safety advice or instruction to staff on the gas cartridge compartment of the barbecue grill unit or use of butane gas canisters.

Furthermore, the barbecue grill unit lacked evidence that it had been certified for use in Australia as required by law.

The family partnership C.J LEE & D.J LEE faces six reckless conduct charges under Section 31 of the Act for failing to comply with their primary duty of care to ensure the safety of their patrons.

If found guilty of all charges, C.J LEE & D.J LEE faces a maximum combined penalty of $18 million.

Six alternative charges under Section 32 of the Act have also been laid, and the matter is listed for mention at the Darwin Local Court on 31 January 2023.