Perth: Rand Transport fined $45,000 over ammonia gas burns suffered by contractor

Perth: Rand Transport fined $45,000 over ammonia gas burns suffered by contractor

A PERTH-based cold storage food distributor has been fined $45,000 over an incident that left a contractor with serious chemical burns to his face and internal organs.

Rand Transport was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court over the incident, which happened on December 11, 2014 to Luke Passmore, a contractor for Bondor.

During the construction of a dividing wall within a large cold storage room, Mr Passmore was sprayed in the face with ammonia liquid and gas that was released from a purge valve.

He suffered serious chemical burns to his eyes and face, as well as severe internal respiratory damage.

The purge valve was part of a live, forced air cooler unit suspended from the ceiling.

A statement from Worksafe said Mr Passmore was operating a scissor lift at height, within a small restricted space.

As he operated the lift it struck the valve on the unit, releasing the pressurised toxic refrigeration chemical.

Worksafe Commissioner Ian Munns said the company knew the chemical was near the works being carried out and had not advised Bondor or its contractors about the potential risks.

“The duty of care is extended to all people working for contracting organisations, including those from labour hire firms, and even passers-by,” he said.

“Providing the necessary information, delivering the proper inductions and appropriate training is an absolute occupational safety and health basic for every person in control of a workplace.

“This is an easy safety measure for employers to implement.

“Rand has taken the necessary steps after this young man was injured. Those measures should have already been in place.

“It was the responsibility of Rand to make sure Mr Passmore understood the need to maintain a safe distance.

“With proper risk assessment and appropriate controls like providing the correct working space, isolating the unit, using protective structures and attaching warning labels and signs, this accident would have been avoided.”

Rand pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace where contractors were not exposed to hazards, and was ordered to pay $2900 in costs on top of the fine.