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January 2020

Victorian company fined $50,000 after explosion

Victorian company fined $50,000 after explosion

WorkSafe Victoria v Lance Darren Robertson (2015)

Facts

On 26 March 2013 an explosion occurred at a mushroom-growing business while a room was being sterilised. The mushroom-growing process required sterilisation of the growing room through a process known as a ‘burn-out’. This involved heating the room for a period of time using an LP gas-powered direct-fired air heater. The contracted worker suffered serious burns as a result of the explosion.

An investigation found that the gas heater used was unsuitable for the following reasons:

  • a safety sensor had been removed;
  • an unsuitable supply hose and clamp were fitted; and
  • the heater had not been maintained or serviced.

Judgment

The Court found there was a failure to identify:

  • the potential for an explosive atmosphere;
  • hazards introduced through modifications to equipment; or
  • hazards created through a lack of equipment maintenance.

The business was fined $50,000 plus $15,106 in court costs.

Lessons

Businesses need to ensure that safe work procedures are put in place to identify and remove hazards.

Take the following steps to avoid a similar incident occurring in your workplace:

  • identify all potentially hazardous situations;
  • provide adequate instruction and training to workers;
  • ensure that plant and equipment are adequately maintained; and
  • avoid making modifications to plant and equipment.
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