Plumber fined over Chelsea Heights explostion

A licensed plumber whose work van exploded at Chelsea Heights in 2009 was convicted and fined $25,000 at the Frankston Magistrates' Court today.
News article published

Monday 23 May 2011

Industries and topics
  • Construction
  • Explosives
  • Plumbing

Michael Ponton pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe workplace and putting people other than employees at risk.

Michael Ponton's van was parked outside his Chelsea Heights home when a tank of acetylene gas leaked, built up inside overnight and was ignited when the central locking was activated around 6am on October 22, 2009.

Magistrate Frank Hodgens was told the business' two apprentices, Mr Ponton and members of the public in their homes were near the van at the time of the blast.

The explosion hurled debris over neighbouring houses and caused significant damage.

WorkSafe's investigation found Michael Ponton failed to:

  • Ensure a safety-cabinet in which the acetylene was stored in the vehicle was airtight;
  • Ensure the cabinet was properly vented to the outside of the vehicle; and
  • Ensure the employees conducted a soapy water test to check the cylinders were not leaking before they loaded the cylinders into the vehicle.

Worksafe's Construction and Utilities Division Acting Director, Allan Beacom said the incident served as a reminder to other businesses of the need to properly secure dangerous goods.

“This incident showed the devastating consequences of an explosion in a residential area. The incident could have easily led to serious injuries or even deaths,” he said.  

“People should make sure the cylinders are in good condition, turned off, secure and that there is proper ventilation in the event of a leak. “

“The hazards associated with stored gases are well known as are the means of preventing incidents like this.”

“Thankfully incidents like this are rare, but where gases need to be stored inside vehicles, it's essential that there be a means by which it can escape,” Mr Beacom said.

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