A $900,000 fine has been handed to a LP Gas business following a and explosion of a LP Gas bulk vehicle while filling fixed canisters at a school. The fines were issues in respose to the incident following a guilty plea that acknowledged that the instructions to staff, and the safety control documents were inadequate because they were “scattered” through dozens of documents in multiple locations.

A bulk LP Gas subcontractor caught fire after using a high flow nozzle to fill a fixed LPG Canister at a school in 2015. While it was in the safety instructions that such canisters should not have been filled with the high flow nozzle (rather the low flow should have been used), the breaches have arisen as there was not clear communication of the risks and controls and importantly the business did not have any process in place for assessing if the drivers actually understood the instructions. There was no assessment, quiz, supervised fills or formal set up specific training.

The business presented that it had extensive safety protocols, including over 50 policies and procedures, however it conceded to Judge Scotting’s assessment that its training and supervision of the drivers was “inadequate because the relevant instructions were scattered throughout a number of policy documents and procedures”.

This incident resulted in the serious burning of two persons. The driver sustained 50% burns and the resident sustained 75% burns.

Learnings

What every business can take home from this unfortunate incident is summed up by Judge Scotting;

“It was reasonably practicable to compile an SOP that specified the steps to be taken, including the enforcement of an exclusion zone, the risks involved, the consequences of those risks and the steps to be taken in the event of an emergency”

In short, it is not enough for a business to have considered the risks and to communicate the risks and the controls, if that communication is not fit for purpose, and if the business does not then go and make sure that the communication is understood.

If something can be communicated simply and in a task specific fashion then it should be, and all safety instructions given to an employee should be tested to ensure that they are understood. If it is worth writing a policy and procedure, if it is worth communicating it to the employee, then it is absolutely worth the business confirming that the employee has understood it – either by testing, observation or periodic training (or all three!).

Here to Help

ACAPMA members are reminded that ACAPMA has a series of resources from Quick Reference Guides to templates that can assist with ensuring compliant and consistent responses in this area, and can call on the advice and support of the ACAPMA Employment Professionals via employment@acapma.com.au .

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by emailing employment@acapma.com.au it’s free for members.

ACAPMA Membership is affordable at only $810 per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts.  Click here to learn more about ACAPMA Membership.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM &IR)
Executive Manager Employment and Training
ACAPMA