Western Australian employer Rand Transport (1986) Pty Ltd has been fined $45,000, plus $2,900 in costs, after a contract worker was sprayed in the face with ammonia liquid and gas, suffering serious chemical burns to his eyes and face, as well as severe internal respiratory damage.
At the time of the December 2014 incident, the contractor was helping to construct a dividing wall within a large cold storage room at a Rand site when the scissor lift he was operating struck a suspended cooler unit's purge valve, and released the pressurised toxic refrigeration chemicals.
The Perth Magistrates Court heard that Rand, which pleaded guilty to breaching the State OSH Act, knew the valve and chemicals were in the vicinity of the construction work but didn't advise its contractors.
An employer's duty of care "is extended to all people working for contracting organisations, including those from labour-hire firms and even passers-by", WorkSafe WA Commissioner Ian Munns said today.
"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," Munns 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... It was the responsibility of Rand to make sure [the contract worker] understood the need to maintain a safe distance [from the unit]."