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Fire risks must be managed

17 June 2016

A worker who suffered serious burns while doing gas-cutting work at a Taranaki scrap metal yard is to receive $17,000 in court-ordered reparation from his employer. Molten Metals Limited was also fined $45,000.

The man was cutting wire rope with a gas-cutter in November 2014 when his overalls caught fire. He went to use a fire hose to douse the flames – but the council had cut the water off while it repaired a near-by fire hydrant. Molten Metals has been given two days warning that the water would be cut off, but the worker had not been told.

When he could not get water out of the hose he called for help and a colleague grabbed some wet rags from a shed to smother the flames. The man suffered serious burns and spent more than a week in hospital.

Molten Metals failed to notify WorkSafe that its worker had suffered serious harm as a result of an incident at work. Instead WorkSafe was notified 13 days after the incident by the worker’s wife.

Molten Metals pleaded guilty to two charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act (1992), one under Sections 6 and 50(1)(a) for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of the man while at work and a second charge under Sections 25(3)(a) and 50(1)(b) for failing to notify WorkSafe. It was sentenced today in the New Plymouth District Court.

WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says Molten Metals should have had a process in place that would have required that fire extinguishers and water were available whenever a gas cutter was in use. A safety observer is also a good idea.

“If you’re doing anything where there is a real risk of fire you have to be prepared to put it out. Given that the water was off that day it would have been prudent to avoid gas-cutting work altogether.

“This case also highlights the importance of proper personal protective equipment such as leather leggings and spats to reduce the chances of clothing catching fire.

“Molten Metals also failed to notify WorkSafe about this incident, as it was legally required to do. WorkSafe was only made aware of it when the victim’s wife contacted us 13 days after the incident.

“It’s important that WorkSafe is informed about such incidents so that they can be followed up and investigated where appropriate,” says Keith Stewart.

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