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Van blast “should not have happened”

Worksafe-VictoriaAUSTRALIA: The authority responsible for enforcing occupational health and safety laws has warned of the dangers in transporting flammable gases.

Speaking following last week’s court case in which a refrigeration company was fined $285,000 after an employ was killed when his van exploded, WorkSafe Victoria’s executive director of health and safety Marnie Williams said “There are simple but specific measures that need to be taken when dangerous gases are being transported in small spaces such as work vans.”

Refrigeration engineer Joey Consentino, 25, died when his work van exploded outside his home in the Melbourne suburb of Mulgrave in 2011.

Last week, Cool Dynamics Refrigeration (CDR) of Carrum Downs pleaded guilty to three breaches of the 2004 OHS Act over the incident, which occurred as the man prepared to leave for work. CDR was charged with failing to maintain a safe system of work; failing to provide information, instruction, training and supervision; and failing to ensure that people other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety. On the first charge, it was convicted and fined $100,000, on the second charge it was convicted and fined $55,000, and on the third charge it was convicted and fined $130,000.

Equipment in the company’s vans included cylinders of various flammable gases, such as acetylene and MAPP gas. Under Australian health and safety laws specific measures are required for the transport and storage of these volatile gases. If cylinders are not contained properly, the potential for movement – and possible leaks – is increased.

The cylinders should be kept in a purpose built vented compartment or cabinet so leaking gas can only escape to the outside of the vehicle. Cylinders are also required to be regularly checked to ensure that valves are firmly closed and outlets capped.

The court was told that the van contained a cabinet to transport gas cylinders but it did not have a vent. The court also heard that employees were not trained in how to store and transport flammable gas cylinders.

Acetylene is a highly flammable gas that, when mixed with air, needs only a very slight ignition source to ignite. In the cabin of a van, these include electrical switches, relays and motors. The court heard that the most likely source was the door-activated light switch, which would have generated a small electrical arc as the door was opened.

Marnie Williams, said the young man’s tragic death should not have happened. “There must be a cabinet built specifically for transporting gas cylinders and it must have a vent so any leaking gas is discharged outside the vehicle.

“The cabinet has to be airtight so no leaking gas gets inside the vehicle but, just in case that happens, there should be extra ventilation in the van, such as rotary roof vents.

“It is important that gas cylinders should not be kept in the van for long periods when they are not being used.”

“The breaches that the company has pleaded guilty to are serious and the consequences of such failings are catastrophic,” she said.

“A young man is dead and a family is left heartbroken and grieving over another senseless workplace fatality.”

Related stories:

Fridge firm fined $285,000 for explosion – November 27, 2015
AUSTRALIA: The Melbourne employer of a refrigeration engineer who died when his work van exploded has been fined AUS$285,000 (€194,000). Read more…

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