‘METHO’ USED TO 'EXTINGUISH FLAMES': $545K FINE

A&J Australia has been fined $545,000 for 16 safety breaches, including fire safety failures resulting in severe injuries.

In November 2020, A&J's sole director and a mechanical engineer suffered severe burns after the engineer used an LPG torch to melt built-up plastic on a granulator's blades, causing a fire at its plastic packaging manufacturing facility in Laverton North.

The engineer then attempted to extinguish the flames with an unlabelled container of clear liquid, later identified as methylated spirits, resulting in a fireball that engulfed both individuals.

Despite nearby fire extinguishers and a fire hose, other workers initially tried to help by using cardboard and removing burning clothing. Eventually, they used the extinguisher, and both victims were hospitalised with severe burn injuries.

The fire is just one of a spate of safety issues at the company, including a machine operator suffering a head wound and concussion after being struck by a robotic arm, and machinery lacerating another worker's finger.

WorkSafe was aware A&J was unsafe, having issued 17 improvement notices and three prohibition notices, which the company failed to comply with. 

A&J was sentenced in the Victorian County Court over three separate incidents, including the fire, and for neglecting to conduct risk assessments, provide safe operating procedures, and ensure proper fire safety training.

A&J was also fined for non-compliance with the improvement and prohibition notices.

WorkSafe Victoria condemned the company's negligence, emphasising the importance of maintaining safe machinery and providing adequate training for workers.

Source: OHS Alert, 08 March

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