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WHS charge for Cleanaway after Sydney fire

23 April 2024

National waste management company Cleanaway has been charged with contravening federal work health and safety laws over a fire that caused serious injuries to a worker.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has filed a single charge alleging Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd failed in its primary duty of care under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).

The incident happened at the company’s liquid waste treatment facility at St Marys, western Sydney, on 19 April 2022.

A worker was operating machinery used to process hazardous wastes including aerosol cans and paint tins when flammable gases escaped and caused a fire. It will be alleged the fire was sparked by an electrical fault.

The Cleanaway worker suffered severe burns to his face and hands. The fire took several hours to bring under control, with Fire and Rescue NSW deploying more than 130 firefighters to the scene.

Comcare’s investigation found alleged failures in providing a safe system of work relating to the maintenance and operation of the machinery.

The charge is a Category 2 criminal offence under the WHS Act, alleging a failure to comply with a health and safety duty that exposed an individual to a risk of serious injury or death. The offence carries a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.

The matter is listed for mention at Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on 4 June 2024.

Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd is a licenced national employer in the Comcare scheme and subject to regulation under Commonwealth work health and safety laws.

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Page last reviewed: 23 April 2024

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Date printed 19 May 2024