Company fined after WA mine worker sustains chemical burns

A company has been fined $ 55,000 after an incident in which a worker suffered severe chemical burns to 20 per cent of his body at a Western Australian mine three years ago.

The company was fined in the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court on Wednesday following the incident at the company’s Murrin Murrin cobalt-nickel operations in the WA’s Goldfields region in July 2015.

The  worker was making safety preparations for maintenance on a piece of equipment known as a Treloar arm, used to unload liquid anhydrous ammonia, when the hose ruptured, allowing anhydrous ammonia to escape from the Treloar arm.

This formed a vapour that engulfed him and caused severe chemical burns to 20 per cent of his body.

The man also suffered acute swelling and inflammation of his throat and lungs that compromised his airways, requiring him to be resuscitated and subsequently hospitalised.

Mines Safety Director Andrew Chaplyn said the company was aware of the hazardous nature of anhydrous ammonia.

“In 2010, an independent audit of hoses and fittings at the mine resulted in a series of recommendations that included monthly inspections to ensure hoses were fit for purpose and the removal of unserviceable hoses,” Mr. Chaplyn said.

“The mine’s risk register also identified the potential for personal injury from the pressurised release of ammonia due to hose failure. In January 2015, six months before the incident, the mine issued a safety bulletin after a worker suffered a burn injury caused by the rupture of a defective hose.

“This incident was almost certainly avoidable. Had the procedures in place been implemented, the likelihood of workers being exposed to fugitive anhydrous ammonia as a result of hose rupture would have been practically eliminated.”

The company has since improved its procedures. All hoses that fail inspection or testing are immediately withdrawn from service and replaced.

In handing down the penalty, the court took into account the company’s early guilty plea and cooperation with investigators.

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