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Transpacific Industries fined following chemical incident

Media release

 - 23 Dec 2014

Comcare welcomes the Federal Court in Adelaide's decision to fine Transpacific Industries following an incident involving an employee being exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Transpacific Industries has today been fined $110,000 for failing to provide a safe work environment.

In December 2011, a Transpacific Industries employee was working at a chemical recycling plant in Wingfield, South Australia.

While the man was pouring 25 kilogram bags of sodium sulphide into a tank, he was overcome with inhaling fumes and suffered severe dizziness and breathing difficulties, before collapsing.

The Court found that the work being undertaken by the employee was unsafe because there were not appropriate systems of work and inadequate information, training and/or instruction to enable the employee to safely perform the work.

The Federal Court found that Transpacific Industries breached section 16 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 (Cth) in respect to the incident. The Court found Transpacific Industries failed to take all reasonably practicable steps to:

  • Provide and maintain a safe working environment for its employees.
  • Ensure that the safety of its employees was not compromised in the connection with the handling and storage of hazardous substances.
  • Ensure that its employees were provided with adequate information, training, instruction and supervision to carry out work safely and without risk to their health.

The Court found that while safety equipment was available at the workplace, employees were not required to use it.

In his judgement, Justice Mansfield said "it was inappropriate to leave decisions about personal protective equipment to employees doing the work, without adequate training on the [dangerous] substance they were working with or the risk of harm that arose from that substance."

Comcare's Regulatory Operations Group Acting General Manager, Paul Orwin, said this case highlighted the importance for companies with high-risk operations to ensure there were appropriate health and safety systems in place.

"There is a serious risk of injury or death when dealing with chemicals of this nature," Mr Orwin said.

"Employers need to undertake the appropriate risk assessments to ensure employees carrying out these duties understand the requirements and are safe," Mr Orwin said.

Media contact:
Media Manager, Comcare
0478 305 675
media@comcare.gov.au

Page last updated: 23 Dec 2014