1 min read

Company fined $525,000 after destructive explosion

The Case

SafeWork NSW v Elgas Limited (2021)

Elgas Limited is the largest supplier of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in Australia.

In December 2015, a driver for Elgas Limited failed to engage a gas ignition’s emergency shutdown buttons, which resulted in an explosion, which engulfed the driver and a customer in flames. The driver suffered burns to 50% of his body, and the customer suffered burns of up to 60% to 75% of her body. The explosion and the subsequent fire caused a complete destruction of a ski boat and a motor vehicle, and extensive damage to the neighbouring school.

At the time of the incident, Elgas Limited had a comprehensive safe work method statement (SWMS) and training programs.

The Verdict

The Court found that the risk of the ignition leaking LPG during the refilling process was obvious and well known to Elgas Limited.

At the time of the incident, Elgas Limited had more than 50 policies and procedures in place that were relevant to the driver’s work. The driver had received training in each of them. However, Elgas Limited accepted that its training and supervision of the tanker drivers was inadequate because the relevant instructions to the tanker drivers were scattered throughout a number of policy documents and procedures, and as such, the likelihood of the risk occurring was quite high.

Elgas Limited pleaded guilty to breaching section 19 and section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) in exposing the worker to the risk of death or serious injury, and failing to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that the safety of other persons was not put at risk from work carried out for its business.

Elgas Limited was sentenced to pay a fine of $525,000, following a 15% reduction for entering a guilty plea.

The Lessons

For any significant risk, you must ensure that an SWMS is prepared, and adequate training and supervision is provided to all workers.

Please note: Case law is reported as correct and current at time of publishing. Be aware that cases in lower courts may be appealed and decisions subsequently overturned.

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