$73K fine for hot metal burns

Wednesday, 08 October, 2008

Adelaide galvanised steel firm Korvest has been fined $73,000 over two incidents in which six employees suffered burns from molten metal.

Korvest pleaded guilty to three charges: two counts related to its failure to maintain a safe work environment, while the third related to a failure to report the incidents as required.

The two incidents happened seven months apart in February and September 2006 at the company’s premises at Kilburn.

On both occasions, a jig used to dip metal parts in hot galvanising solution was immersed too far. The pockets of air and moisture trapped in the build-up of zinc on the jig frame expanded with great force on contact with the hot liquid metal (450 °C), splashing nearby workers.

Two workers were injured in the first incident and four in the second. The workers suffered facial and upper body burns, exacerbated by the inadequate protective equipment they wore and a lack of adequate emergency response facilities.

SafeWork SA says the case highlights a failure of the management to not only meet its legal obligations on safety, but to foster a safety culture in its workforce.

The investigation revealed:

  • a failure to provide adequate PPE;
  • a failure to provide adequate emergency response facilities, such as deluge equipment, first aid and medical evacuation procedures;
  • deficiencies in procedures to remove extraneous zinc solution from the jigs;
  • deficiencies in the remote control system of dipping operations; and
  • a failure to report serious incidents.

SafeWork SA did not find out about the February incident until it was notified about the September incident. In determining penalty, industrial magistrate Richard Hardy also noted the lax safety culture prevailing at the time.

“There was in fact difficulty with absenteeism and an unwillingness to wear PPE,” he said.

On the two counts of failing to provide a safe work environment, the company was fined $25,000 and $45,000 each. It was also fined $3000 for failing to report the incidents as soon as reasonably practicable.

“The example that managers set on safety can be a deciding factor in how safe a workplace is,” said SafeWork SA acting executive director Peter Hampton.

“Working with hot metal is a dangerous business, and one that needs multiple layers of safety management and an assertive no-risk workplace culture.

“Employers have not only a legal responsibility on safety, but a moral one to lead by example by defining what is acceptable workplace practice,” he said.


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