Recycler fined after LPG explosion burns worker

A scrap metal recycler has been convicted and fined $50,250 after an LPG fuel tank exploded, setting fire to a worker in September 2020.

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Published: 11 August 2022

Centre Scrap Metal Pty Ltd, trading as Omega Metal Recyclers, was sentenced in the Bendigo Magistrates' Court today after pleading guilty to three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and one charge under the Dangerous Goods Act.

Omega 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 $1,500 for failing to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks, and $3,750 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 $7,500 for failing to take all reasonable precautions to prevent tampering, theft or unauthorised access to dangerous goods stored on the premises.

The company was ordered to pay costs of $4,151.

The court heard the worker was using an excavator to move a fuel tank at the scrap yard in Eaglehawk, near Bendigo, when 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.

A WorkSafe investigation found, no system of work was in place for moving, handling or storing LPG tanks; no documented procedure for removing gas cylinders from cars; no Safe Work Method Statement, documented procedures, information or instruction on how to decant LPG tanks; and that staff were not trained how 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.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it is essential when handling dangerous goods that employers have up-to-date safe working procedures and provide appropriate 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," Dr Beer said.

"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."

To manage risks when handling fuel tanks, employers should:

  • Provide employees with enough information, instruction and training to do their work safely and without risks to health. This may include for example, information, instruction and training on the proper handling, storage and decanting of fuel tanks.
  • Ensure tanks are secured, stored and handled in an upright position that prevents them tipping or falling over and being struck by other objects.
  • Ensure workers are provided appropriate training on the proper stowage and restraint of cylinders when transporting in vehicles.
  • Ensure all employees and persons at the premises are informed of the hazards associated with cutting, striking or working near tanks and drums with heat producing tools and equipment
  • 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.

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