Foundry fined $100,000 over worker death

Tuesday, 19 August, 2008

A heavy engineering company has been fined $100,000 over the 2005 death of a 21-year-old worker at its Henderson foundry.

Bradken Resources pleaded guilty and was fined in the Fremantle Magistrates Court for failing to ensure the safety or health of a person who was not an employee.

A labour hire worker, who had been at the foundry for less than three hours, was killed when struck by molten metal as a furnace exploded.

In April 2005, workers at the foundry were engaged in melting materials in the furnace to form a metal alloy.

The workers were not aware that a solid cover of metal had formed over the surface of the molten metal in the furnace.

This caused the molten metal underneath to superheat, which in turn led to the furnace lining failing. An explosion then ejected most of the molten metal from the furnace.

The worker who died had been undertaking a general workplace induction in the area where he was to be working. He had been taken to the furnace deck to observe the operation of the furnace and associated tasks.

WorkSafe WA commissioner Nina Lyhne said the tragic incident should serve as a reminder that safe systems of work needed to be in place, and they needed to be followed.

“There were no specific safe work procedures in place for the task the workers were engaged in that day,” Lyhne said.

“Some of the employees at the foundry had attended training a couple of years before, but the men who were undertaking the task of furnace operation had not received adequate training in the correct procedures for adding the ingredients to be melted and the early recognition of operating problems.

“Procedures did exist to safely cool the molten metal should a solid cover form, but unfortunately the workers had not noticed that this had happened and did not take the measures recommended to avoid an explosion."

Bradken Resources had assumed control of the workplace only a few days before the incident occurred.

“This case illustrates the importance of companies ensuring that a workplace they are taking over is safe and that adequate training and instruction is being provided for all work tasks, especially in hazardous workplaces such as foundries," said Lyhne.

“Soon after this incident, a safe system of work was put into place to prevent any similar incidents, but too late for the young worker who lost his life.

“WorkSafe inspectors will soon be conducting a proactive inspection campaign at foundries, beginning later this month."

For more information, visit the WorkSafe WA website.


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