A WA business and key staff have received a record fine after a worker was seriously injured.  The Manager was personally fined $52,683 and the business was fined a further $602,683 after it pled guilty to failure to adequately train a worker in the nature, risks, hazards and controls of the dangerous goods onsite.

 Case Review

 The worker received serious burns to more than 30% of his body, including his face, in the incident in November 2018. 

 The worker was new to the business and had been given the instruction to take kerosene from an unlabelled container, and apply it to a metal sheet before sanding it with an electric sander.  Interestingly the injury did not occur on the day of this task, but on the following day.

 The worker, not having been given proper training around the nature of kerosene, wore his kerosene splashed shirt the next day while welding.  It was while welding that the fumes from the kerosene in the clothing ignited and the worker was engulfed in flames.

 In commenting on this case WorkSafe WA Commissioner Kavanagh said “the young man involved was not properly advised of the risks associated with kerosene, including its hazardous and flammable properties, and was not told how much kerosene to use or instructed to wear any personal protective equipment.  …no system to ensure adequate induction for new employees, proper instruction and training were sadly lacking, supervision was effectively non existent and safe systems of work were not in place”.

 It was also noted that the business did not have, nor communicate the Safety Data Sheet for Kerosene, and that despite welding activities and the presence of dangerous goods onsite the location of the  fire extinguisher that was used to put out the worker was not known nor convenient.

 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 appropriate labelling  and training. 

 Staff training is not a luxury, it is not an expense – it is vital to keep the staff, customers and community safe, and it is vital to keeping the business operating.

 It is a requirement of the law that the business provide appropriate training to staff, this means that staff are able to identify the product and the risks and hazards that are associated with that product, understand the behaviours to avoid, the controls to use and the dangerous situations that they can get into and how to navigate them.

 “Even a rudimentary training on the nature of dangerous goods would have highlighted to the employee that not only should contaminated clothing not be worn, but it should be washed and then air dried outside, never ever in a clothes drier, to ensure that the residual vapours do not ignite” outlines ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

 “This case is coming hot on the heels another case last week where failure to train staff in ignition sources and hazardous zones resulted in serious injury to three people and a $180k fine. It is not on.  Dangerous Goods are just that, the are dangerous, and every business that is storing, using or retailing them needs to ensure they are providing detailed, rigorous and repeated training to staff on the nature of the dangerous goods, as well as the risks, hazards and importantly controls that need to be followed to keep everyone safe.  Anything less is a disaster” continued Elisha.   See; https://acapmag.com.au/2021/10/safety-highlight-180k-fine-for-failure-to-control-ignition-sources/ for more on this case.

 “This pattern is disturbing.  Too many businesses look at training as an option, or a sunk cost.  Its not an option and its not a cost, it is an investment in a safe, compliant and operational workplace.  The cost of not adequately training staff is just way to high.  The loss of life, injury and lifelong pain that could be avoided by adequate training is too high a cost to pay, let along the fines and loss of business operation” noted Elisha.

 What constitutes appropriate or adequate training will depend on the work that the employee is undertaking. 

 “Training does not need to be fancy, it needs to be adequate.  ACAPMA offers a very detailed and involved multi media training program for fuel retail workers that includes assessment of knowledge and structured refreshers.  This level is appropriate for workers who are retailing dangerous goods.  But even in an office setting, workers should be provided with detailed instruction on how to handle cleaning products, the need for ventilation, appropriate storage, first aid responses, PPE required.  In short they should at least be taken through the Safety Data Sheet and it should be clear to the business that the worker understands the risks, hazards and controls…and then they should be supervised to ensure they are complying with instructions, and their knowledge regularly reviewed, refreshed and tested” concluded Elisha.

 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