By Andrew Starke
A Kyabram refrigeration business has been convicted and fined $45,000 over an explosion that left an apprentice with third degree burns to 35 percent of his body.
The worker was performing a service check on a commercial refrigerator in the cellar of Echuca’s Bridge Hotel on July 7, 2009 when the explosion happened.
He suffered third degree burns to his arms, face, back and hands and was flown to the Alfred Hospital where he was in a coma for eight days.
He hasn’t been able to work since the incident.
WorkSafe Victoria’s investigation found there was a leak in an acetylene gas torch.
This resulted in a build up of gas, which could not disperse in the poorly ventilated cellar space.
The gas bubble erupted when the worker lit the torch.
The investigation also found his employer, Kanga Coolers Pty Ltd, had failed to comply with regulatory requirements for working safely within confined spaces, amongst other charges.
Kanga Coolers pleaded guilty in the Shepparton Magistrates’ Court earlier this week to failing to provide a safe working environment and failing to provide proper information, instruction, training and supervision.
In sentencing, the court took into account the company’s early guilty plea and stated remorse over the incident, but said the company had to accept responsibilities for its omissions.
Worksafe’s Construction and Utilities Division acting director, Allan Beacom, said the incident should remind other businesses of the need to properly deal with flammable gases in confined spaces.
“This incident showed the devastating consequences of an explosion,” he said.
“People should make sure cylinders, hoses and attachments are in good condition, turned off, secure and that there is proper ventilation in the event of a leak.
“While this young man suffered very serious injuries, the possibility of him or others dying was significant.”