Dangerous goods delivery, the transfer of dangerous goods in bulk quantities and in retail settings are a high consequence activity that must come with abundantly clear instructions, training and protocols.  A recent case involving a fire at a customers property while transferring LPG highlights that these instructions need to be clear and accessible, it is not enough for them just to exist as massive fines are levied.

 In 2015 a professional dangerous goods driver, filling a residential fixed bottle at a customers home next to a school.  The incident involved several failure points; the driver chose to use the high flow hose  (which was inappropriate for the vessel), the driver allowed the customer to come into the exclusion zone during filling to chat, the driver was chatting rather than observing the fill, when a leak was detected by smell the driver took steps to identify the source of the leak, but did not shut down all flow as instructed.

 As a result of these failure points the gas ignited and the driver and customer were severely injured, with the driver suffering burns to up to 50% of his body and the woman sustaining burns to 75% of her body.  The resulting explosion also damaged the home, school and vehicles.

 The drivers employer and the LPG company that contracted his employer, both argued that the driver had been instructed not to use the high flow on small vessels, not to leave the filling unattended, not to allow others entry into the exclusion zone and to immediately shut down flow if there was a suspicion of a leak.

 The court noted that the claims of the business were try, those instructions were given, however these instructions were “scattered” through dozens of documents and over 50 policies, finding that the training was “inadequate because the relevant instructions were scattered throughout a number of policy documents and procedures.  It was reasonably practicable to compile a 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” this was seen as a minimum given “the likelihood of the risk occurring was quite high if the specified procedures were not followed.  The potential consequences of the risk were, as described by [business] in its own documents, catastrophic”.

 The court handed down a $900,000 fine, before reducing it to $525,000 given the two charges arose from the same incident.

 Learnings for all businesses

 “There is a legal requirement for all businesses to train their staff in the risks and hazards they will face at work, and the controls needed to mitigate those risks, and the emergency response to take if controls are ineffective.  This need is well understood, but it is vital that businesses ensure understanding and compliance, particularly in areas where the risk is high likelihood and or high consequence” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

 “It is not enough for a business to rely on an employees previous licencing, or dense policy documents.  The business must ensure that the vital information is effectively communicated to the employees and that the business takes appropriate steps to ensure that the employee not only understood the information, but is also complying with these vital instructions” adds Elisha.

 “It is simply not enough to tell the employees what needs to be done to stay safe.  Businesses need to show, tell, confirm and observe.  This is true for all safety training, processes and policies, but it is a business imperative for high likelihood and high consequence risks” concludes 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)
ACAPMA

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