New Sector Engineering Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court on 25 March, to failing to provide a work environment that was safe and without risks to health, and failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
The company was sentenced in court on Monday.
The court heard a New Sector Engineering ute caught on fire when gas bottles containing acetylene and oxygen, which were being transported from a supplier, exploded in the vehicle’s fully enclosed toolbox.
The court also heard the two gas bottles had been placed unsecured and on their side as the ute’s enclosed canopy was too low to allow the worker to place them in an upright position.
This allowed acetylene vapour and air to mix and explode.
A witness to the incident on the Mountain Highway at Bayswater said the fire damaged overhead powerlines and nearby cars, while other gas bottles in the ute also ignited.
About 12 people attended the scene and attempted to put the fire out and rescue the driver from the vehicle.
The worker requires a wheelchair and has memory loss as a result of multiple traumatic, physical and mental injuries.
The court heard that New Sector Engineering failed to have a system of work in place for the transportation of gas bottles, including adequate ventilation and ensuring the bottles were properly secured and upright when moved.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Healthy and Safety Julie Nielsen said procedures for handling highly flammable chemicals like acetylene gas could not be left to chance.
“A worker will be dealing with horrific physical and mental injuries from this incident for the rest of their lives,” Ms Nielsen said.
“This incident should serve as a reminder to all employers, contractors and tradies that they need to ensure dangerous goods are handled with care.
“Where gas bottles are used as part of a business it is essential that employers put health and safety first, because the consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic.”
Employers and contractors transporting dangerous goods for their trade should ensure:
- Packages are loaded, secured, segregated, transported and unloaded safely.
- Packaging is fit for purpose and not altered or damaged
- Flammable, oxidising or toxic dangerous goods are not transported in a passenger compartment or enclosed space not separated from it if the total quantity is more than 250kg(L).
- Toxic or flammable gas and Packing Group I goods are not transported in the passenger compartment or any other enclosed space if the total quantity is more than 50kg(L).