A Bayswater company has been fined after an employee was left with “traumatic” injuries when gas cylinders in his ute blew up.
New Sector Engineering Pty Ltd pleaded guilty at the County Court to failing to provide a safe work environment and failing to ensure members of the community were not put at risk following the explosion in December 2017.
In sentencing the company last month, Judge Michael O’Connell said the employee was told to pick up two gas bottles from a Bayswater gas supplier and was transporting them back to his worksite when they ignited.
He was driving on the Mountain Highway when they exploded, and witnesses reported hearing a loud bang before seeing the ute on fire, Judge O’Connell said.
WorkSafe later found the ute was unsuitable for transporting the gas bottles because the tray’s canopy did not allow proper ventilation or for the bottles to be stored upright.
This resulted in the employee placing the gas bottles on their side inside an enclosed toolbox in order to fit them in the ute, the court heard.
Forensic police concluded vapour may have escaped from one or both of the bottles, causing them to ignite in the enclosed space.
The force of the blast hurled tools up to 200m from the ute, while the toolbox hit nearby power lines, causing them to snap, and two other cars were also damaged, the court heard.
No one else was hurt, but Judge O’Connell said the ute driver suffered “traumatic” injuries and emergency services had to use the jaws of life to extract him from his burning vehicle.
His injuries included partial loss of movement in both legs and a total loss of sensation in his genitalia. The man was also now forced to use a catheter to empty his bladder, Judge O’Connell said.
“(He) sustained multiple traumatic injuries requiring hospitalisation,” he said.
“In short, this accident has had a dramatic effect on (his) quality of life.”
Judge O’Connell accepted the company’s early guilty plea and noted it had a clear safety record prior to the incident and had supported their employee since the explosion, including by modifying his home to make it more wheelchair accessible.
But he said more could have been done to avoid the incident, including by providing the employee with better safety training.
“(The) company owned a vehicle which was suitable for the purpose of transporting (the gas bottles) … it is not clear why that vehicle was not utilised,” Judge O’Connell said.
“(The employee) could not recall any specific training or instruction with respect to the handling of dangerous goods … health and safety issues were dealt with as they came up.”
Judge O’Connell convicted and fined the company $300,000 and said he would have fined it $440,000 if not for its early guilty plea.
Source: Herald Sun