Metal recycler fined after explosion reveals health and safety failings
Metal recycler National Steel Limited has been fined $23,500 after an explosion on 17 July 2013 at their Hobill Avenue plant in Wiri revealed a catalogue of health and safety failings. National Steel Limited was fined on Tuesday in the Manukau District Court under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees.
While there were no injuries from the explosion, it dislodged a long, heavy piece of metal ducting causing it to fall to the floor of the plant. Fire and the force of the explosion also damaged windows, cladding and machinery.
An investigation revealed the company was not adequately managing a range of hazards. There was no effective inspection system for identifying gases or liquids in tanks, cylinders or other containers sent for shredding. An inspector also found a fuel tank in the boot of a car just as it was about to be fed into the shredder.
There was also inadequate fencing and guarding of the hammer mill where employees fed material onto the conveyors, doors that were supposed to be kept closed couldn’t close and the conveyors fence had a gate that was left open. The conveyor drum and some of its rollers were also not properly guarded which meant that employees were at risk of dangerous moving parts.
WorkSafe New Zealand’s Chief Inspector Keith Stewart says there’s no room for cowboys when it comes to working with machinery such as a hammer mill and conveyors – particularly if flammable gases are also present.
“The obvious risks at National Steel’s Wiri plant were not properly managed. It is only a matter of luck that no-one was seriously injured.
“National Steel Limited put its employees at risk of serious injury or even death.”