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Inadequate safety systems for chemicals results in prosecution
Feb '10
A fireproof clothing business has been fined $135,000 after a worker suffered corrosive chemical burns to the face - only six weeks after a chemical splash caused another worker to become blind in one eye.

The Shepparton Magistrates Court was recently told that Seymour-based Flame Safe Fabric Specialists Pty Ltd had failed to provide adequate protective equipment and safety training to its staff.

In the absence of the company attending court, the court found Flame Safe Fabric guilty of ten charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

The two incidents, which occurred in 2007, involved the use and handling of corrosive chemicals that are classified Dangerous Goods.

The first incident involved a worker losing sight in one eye after the handle of a bucket holding chemical liquid broke, causing liquid to splash into the man's eye.

The man was not wearing eye-protection at the time of the incident, and the safety spectacles provided to him were not fully enclosed. The matter was not reported to WorkSafe.

The second incident happened when the handle on a dipper (used to take samples) made from a metal rod attached with gaffer tape broke. This caused some of the mixture to splash into a worker's face, burning him and numbing the inside of his mouth.

Flame Safe Fabric Specialists Pty Ltd – which was in the business of manufacturing flame resistant cotton textiles – has gone into liquidation since the incidents.

WorkSafe found the company did not have systems in place to isolate workers from dangerous substances.

The company also failed to provide workers with adequate protective equipment, and training on safely handling and moving hazardous substances was predominantly verbal.

In addition, there were no adequate first aid facilities at the workplace.

WorkSafe's acting Executive Director, Stan Krpan, said the case graphically illustrated the need for employers to take all possible steps to identify and remove hazards and ensure employees were properly trained.

“In this case, it's ironic that the company was in the business of protecting others, yet failed to offer adequate protection to its own workers.”

“Businesses dealing with dangerous chemicals can't afford to take chances - verbal safety briefings and gaffer-taped equipment just doesn't cut it.

Workers need to be fully briefed on how to correctly handle chemicals and the risks,” he said.

WorkSafe Victoria

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