Company fined $45K over worker’s serious ammonia gas burns

A cold storage food distributor has been fined $ 45,000 plus $ 2900 in costs following an incident where a contract worker suffered serious ammonia gas burns.

The incident happened in December 2014. The worker was operating a scissor lift at height when he was sprayed in the face with ammonia liquid and gas as it was released from a purge valve during the construction of a dividing wall within a large cold storage room.

The victim suffered serious chemical burns to his eyes, face and severe internal respiratory damage.

The purge valve was part of a live, forced air cooler unit suspended from the ceiling.

WorkSafe Commissioner Ian Munns said the company was aware the chemical was in the vicinity of the works and did not advise the workers about the hazards or risks.

“The duty of care is extended to all people working for contracting organisations, including those from labour hire firms, and even passers-by,” said Mr. Munns.

“Providing the necessary information, delivering the proper inductions and appropriate training is an absolute occupational safety and health basic for every person in control of a workplace.

“This is an easy safety measure for employers to implement.”

Mr. Munns said the company has taken the necessary steps after the incident.

“With proper risk assessment and appropriate controls like providing the correct working space, isolating the unit, using protective structures and attaching warning labels and signs, this accident would have been avoided,” said Mr. Munns.

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