Company fined after worker was nearly killed from inhaling deadly fumes

A concrete manufacturing business was fined $80,000 and was ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs after a worker was almost killed when he inhaled toxic fumes.

The company, which provides premix concrete and materials to construction sites throughout NSW, owns and operates a concrete manufacturing plant at Tumut, west of Canberra.

According to WorkCover, the 29-year-old man was working in the early hours of 12 November 2009 under concrete premix storage when a large amount of cement powder was accidentally released. He almost died when he inhaled the powder. His lung capacity was permanently reduced to 35 percent.

Investigation revealed that he had no mask or other breathing equipment at that time.

The victim suffered from serious health complications since that incident, including a heart attack and is still unable to go back to work until now.

WorkCover’s investigation found that an accidental release of cement was foreseeable and should have been planned for, including requiring all workers to wear masks while on site.

It was also found that the company failed to offer appropriate supervision, skills and training on what to do in this type of emergency.

The company was charged with breaches under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000. They pleaded guilty and were fined with $80,000 plus legal costs by the Industrial Court of NSW.

John Watson, WorkCover NSW General Manager, said the company made serious failings.

“Companies must maintain a high level of safety in everyday activities,” said Mr Watson.

“Working with heavy machinery in manufacturing plants like these can be dangerous. Mandating, and supervising the wearing of facemasks is a well-known and practical way to improving safety.

“People need to also be trained in how to properly respond to an emergency.

“There was a clear lack of instruction and training in this instance. Had there been better instruction and training the consequences might not have been so severe.

“WorkCover will work with the company to ensure that the same mistakes are not made in the future.”


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