Spray painting firm fined $25,000 after vacuum cleaner triggers explosion

A Wodonga spray painting company has been convicted and fined $25,000 after a vacuum cleaner being used to clean up flammable liquid triggered an explosion in a confined space and burned a worker.


Recoat Smash Repairs Pty Ltd pleaded guilty this week in the Wodonga Magistrate’s Court to one charge of failing to provide a safe system of work by failing to identify the risk of fire or explosion associated with the introduction of a potential ignition source into a confined space.

It was also ordered to pay $3430 costs.

The court heard that on 8 July 2016, a worker who was employed as a manager entered a large, open-topped electrical transformer tank to prepare it for painting.

After applying a flammable solvent to wipe down the interior of the transformer, the manager used a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to remove excess liquid from the base.

About an hour into the task the worker restarted the vacuum and triggered an explosion.

The man received superficial burns to his face and neck, and deep tissue burns to both hands and was airlifted to Melbourne for treatment.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said that working with flammable chemicals in a confined space carried a significant level of risk.

“Working with flammable chemicals is a high-risk task and working in confined spaces also has its own dangers,” Ms Williams said. “When the two tasks are combined, the consequences can be potentially catastrophic unless considerable care is taken.

“Employers have a clear duty to ensure that work which involves entering confined spaces is identified and that appropriate safety controls are put in place.

“They also need to ensure that the equipment used around dangerous goods, especially flammable materials with low flash points, does not heighten that risk.”

Safety measures for the handling of dangerous goods include:

  • Ensuring the Material Data Safety Sheet, supplied by the manufacturer of a dangerous good, is obtained and accessible to those using the substance, and that they are aware of it.
  • Conducting an assessment to determine the level of risk associated with amount of the substance being used and the activity it is being used for.
  • Controlling the risk, potentially by using an alternative substance, introducing a safer process, implementing stricter administrative controls or requiring workers to wear protective clothing and equipment, or a combination of these.
  • Ensuring workers are adequately trained to correctly handle any dangerous goods they are required to work with.

Safety measures for working in confined spaces include:

  • Ensuring confined spaces in the workplace are identified.
  • Conducting a risk assessment to identify the hazards associated with the work being undertaken in the confined spaces identified.
  • Ensuring that activities undertaken in confined spaces do not introduce new hazards, such as ignition points.
  • Developing and practicing an emergency evacuation plan for confined spaces.

For more information about working with dangerous goods or confined spaces, visit: