By Ian Neubauer
WorkCover NSW today issued a safety reminder concerning the risk of fire and explosion in wine production.
The reminder follows an ongoing investigation into an explosion at the main plant at Drayton’s Family Winery in the Hunter Valley on January 17 that claimed the lives of wine icon Trevor Drayton and contract welder Edgar Orgo.
Preliminary findings suggest the explosion was caused after sparks from Orgo’s welding torch ignited ethanol from a vat used for the production of fortified wine.
WorkCover NSW chief executive, John Blackwell, urged the need for ongoing risk assessment at work places where flammable materials are regularly used.
“A thorough risk assessment needs to identify all potential hazards, including the use and storage of flammable materials,” he said. “Consideration should also be given to what work is undertaken near stored flammable materials such as welding, grinding and other hot work that may cause ignition.”
Blackwell said the temporary storage of dangerous goods for wine making should also be included in any risk assessment. “All employees have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of their workers, and should ensure that appropriate safety systems of work are in place. Workers also have a responsibility to ensure they correctly follow the safety measures put in place by their employer,” he said.
WorkCover NSW issued a list of recommendations to minimise the risk of fire and explosion during the wine manufacture process. These include the storage of flammable liquids in clearly labelled containers compliant with Australian Safety Standards; the removal of flammable materials inside an empty container before work is carried out; the identification, promotion and enforcement of hot work zones where mechanical grinding, cutting and welding are strictly prohibited; and training workers in the storage and handling of dangerous goods.
The safety alert, “Fire and Explosion Risks at Wineries” and other information about worker safety is available from the WorkCover NSW website.