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Fines and serious injury from not taking safety precautions

In South Australia , a sole trader was prosecuted $33,000 and had suffered burns as a result of his mistake in incorrectly using propane gas . Mr Angus Roberts, a refrigeration mechanic, was replacing a refrigeration condenser in a food display unit in a café. When he saw unexpected pressure readings, he realised he had mistakenly used propane gas to charge the new condenser. Whilst trying to remove the propane, some escaped in gas and liquid form, which ignited and caused a fire from which both Mr Roberts and the café owner received burns to their bodies.

$33,000 fine for not have safety protocols in place and had not carried out a proper risk assessment

The fire showed the serious the risks of using the incorrect condenser. In considering a plea of guilty, the Court heard that Mr Roberts did not have safety protocols in place and had not carried out a proper risk assessment, which would decanted the chemical substances into smaller canisters, which he failed to label or label correctly;

  • failed to remove the potential ignition sources, which in this case was likely the pilot light in the café’s cooker.
  • failed to establish an exclusion zone.

Despite Mr Roberts’ extensive 35 years’ experience in the industry, his reliance on a ‘mental’ risk assessment was clearly not adequate. This is a good reminder that following proper workplace safety procedures should be made when undertaking potentially high-risk work. A documented risk assessment will more readily lead to a person determine what potential hazardous outcomes could occur so that appropriate controls can be implemented.

Published 29 May, 2022
Publisher Editior
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