A maintenance firm in Bayswater Victoria has been convicted and fined $300,000 after a worker was permanently disabled in a gas bottle explosion in December 2017.
New Sector Engineering Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court to failing to provide a work environment that was safe and without risks to health, and failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
The court heard a New Sector Engineering ute caught on fire when gas bottles containing acetylene and oxygen, which were being transported from a supplier, exploded in the vehicle’s fully enclosed toolbox.
The court also heard the two gas bottles had been placed unsecured and on their side as the ute’s enclosed canopy was too low to allow the worker to place them in an upright position.
This allowed acetylene vapour and air to mix and explode.
A witness to the incident on the Mountain Highway at Bayswater said the fire damaged overhead powerlines and nearby cars, while other gas bottles in the ute also ignited.
About 12 people attended the scene and attempted to put the fire out and rescue the driver from the vehicle.
The worker requires a wheelchair and has memory loss as a result of multiple traumatic, physical and mental injuries.
The court heard that New Sector Engineering failed to have a system of work in place for the transportation of gas bottles, including adequate ventilation and ensuring the bottles were properly secured and upright when moved.
Procedures for handling highly flammable chemicals like acetylene gas could not be left to chance, said WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Julie Nielsen.
“A worker will be dealing with horrific physical and mental injuries from this incident for the rest of their lives,” Nielsen said.
“This incident should serve as a reminder to all employers, contractors and tradies that they need to ensure dangerous goods are handled with care.
“Where gas bottles are used as part of a business it is essential that employers put health and safety first, because the consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic.”