Recycler fined after worker injured in LPG fuel tank explosion

Thursday, 18 August, 2022

Recycler fined after worker injured in LPG fuel tank explosion

Scrap metal recycler Centre Scrap Metal Pty Ltd, trading as Omega Metal Recyclers, has been convicted and fined $50,250 after an LPG fuel tank exploded, setting fire to a worker in September 2020. The company was sentenced after pleading guilty to three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and one charge under the Dangerous Goods Act.

The incident occurred when the worker was using an excavator to move a fuel tank at the scrap yard in Eaglehawk, near Bendigo. The machine’s grab attachment struck the tank, causing gas to escape. The tank then exploded, setting fire to the driver and causing him serious injuries. An investigation by WorkSafe Victoria found that no system of work was in place for moving, handling or storing LPG tanks; no procedures had been documented for removing gas cylinders from cars; no Safe Work Method Statement, documented procedures, information or instructions had been provided on how to decant LPG tanks; and that staff had not been trained to decant, store or handle LPG tanks. Inspectors also found inadequate fencing around the site to prevent unauthorised access to dangerous goods and other site hazards, including an exposed five-metre-deep mine shaft with no fall protection.

The company was fined $37,500 for failing, so far as reasonably practicable, to provide a safe workplace, by failing to provide safe systems of work, ensure the absence of risks connected to handling and storing gas, and provide information, instruction and training for workers. The company was also fined $1500 for failing to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks, and $3750 for failing, so far as was reasonably practicable, to provide a safe workplace by failing to identify a fall hazard. In addition, the company was fined $7500 for failing to take all reasonable precautions to prevent tampering, theft or unauthorised access to dangerous goods stored on the premises. The company was also ordered to pay costs of $4151.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Dr Narelle Beer said it is essential when handling dangerous goods that employers have up-to-date safe working procedures and provide information and training to workers. “This incident should serve as a reminder to all employers, contractors and tradies that they need to ensure dangerous goods are handled correctly. Fuel tanks can retain residue and vapours long after the contents have been emptied and the consequences of failing to handle them safely can be catastrophic,” Beer said.

To manage risks when handling fuel tanks, employers should provide employees with information, instruction and training to do their work safely and without risks to health. Employers are advised to ensure tanks are secured, stored and handled in an upright position that prevents them tipping or falling over and being struck by other objects. Workers must receive appropriate training on the proper stowage and restraint of cylinders when transporting them in vehicles, and all employees and persons at the premises must be informed of the hazards associated with cutting, striking or working near tanks and drums with heat-producing tools and equipment. WorkSafe also advises that employees and workers must never strike, cut into or apply heat to tanks and drums that once contained flammable or combustible liquids, if they have not been cleaned by a specialist. If intending to reuse or recycle tanks or drums, they must be free of dangerous goods, as defined by the Dangerous Goods (storage and handling) Regulations 2012.

Image credit: you for your assistant

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