It is a requirement of the law that businesses identify and manage risks.  Where dangerous goods are present, the risk of vapour ignition is ever present.  Which is why the exclusion and control of ignition sources is paramount in fuel wholesale, distribution and retail.  This weeks Safety Highlight explores a recent case in NSW where complacency and a failure to insist on and utilise intrinsically safe equipment, resulted in a fire that caused lifelong injury to three staff and put all staff and the business at serious risk.

Case Review

In late 2018 the mechanic business manager instructed a qualified employee to clean grease from the tray of the ute they were working on with a gurney.  The gurney was not intrinsically safe and the fuel and oil vapours ignited causing serious burns to three people.

In handing down the decision Judge Russel noted, “Clause 355 of the [State WHS Regulation] provides that a person must, if there is a possibility of fire or explosion in a hazardous area being caused by an ignition source being introduced into the area, ensure that the ignition source is not introduced into the area (from outside or within the space)”.

The incident was said to have been compounded by poor training and supervision and a lack of general cleaning onsite.

Initially setting the penalty at $240,000 the Judge then reduced it to $180,000 given the guilty plea entered.  The business was also ordered to pay $30,000 in court costs.

Learnings for all businesses

Dangerous goods are just that…dangerous!  They can be safely handled, transported, stored and retailed, however the importance of safety protocols, including the understanding of the hazardous zones and areas around dangerous goods, and the active and vigilant management of ignition sources in those zones and areas cannot be understated, and cannot be avoided.  Failure to manage ignition sources is a disaster waiting to happen.

Ignition sources includes the obvious, like open flames, but also includes the often less obvious items like tools and electronics that must not be used in a Hazardous Zone unless they are intrinsically safe (the electrical components are protected against fuel vapour entering them).

Here to Help

 Safety Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business.  They are provided as general information for you to consider and do not constitute advice.  You should seek further advice on your situation by contacting your legal advisor.  ACAPMA members can access resources and receive advice, guidance and support from the ACAPMA employment professionals via employment@acapma.com.au , it is free for members.  ACAPMA Membership delivers this and more benefits, see; https://acapma.com.au/membership/  for more information.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)
ACAPMA

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