Companies plead guilty after explosion

Monday, 20 April, 2009

A Victorian meat processor, Midfield Co-Products, was convicted and fined $32,500 after an explosion at its Warnambool plant in 2006. Local plumbing company Paul & Barbara Kavanagh Pty Ltd was also convicted and fined $32,500.

Midfield Co-Products is part of the Midfield Group of companies, which operate an abattoir and other businesses associated with the meat industry.

Midfield pleaded guilty to two charges laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, while Kavanagh pleaded guilty to one charge laid under the Act.

The court heard the incident occurred at Midfield’s rendering plant when an insulated stainless steel pipe became blocked during a process used to separate fat and water from animal products. Attempts by the plumbing company to clear the blocked pipe using compressed oxygen resulted in an explosion causing debris to be scattered across the floor of the room the explosion occurred in, a large hole in the roof and a wall of the room moved about 30 cm from its original fixing. The explosion also led to an employee being taken to hospital to be checked for injuries.

A WorkSafe investigation after the incident found there was no formal or established system in place at Midfield Co-Products as to which method was to be used to clear tallow blockages or as to who was responsible for the task. A number of different processes were used. There was also limited training and supervision of employees or contractors on site as to the clearing of the lines. Kavanagh also had no system in place for safely assessing the risks associated with the use of compressed oxygen and the clearing of lines.

The Magistrate said the purpose of the Act is to save lives and prevent injuries to workers in the workplace. It is about being proactive not reactive to prevent incidents occurring.

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