Company’s “fireball” accident prompts $33K fine

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A Hamilton flooring company has been hit with a $33,125 fine after one employee was left with serious burns following a workplace incident.

In the accident, the victim and a co-worker were replacing vinyl flooring in a bathroom. The victim was using a highly flammable adhesive while the co-worker was using an LPG gas blow torch nearby.

The naked flame from the blowtorch ignited the adhesive vapours, created a fireball, and caused serious burns to the worker’s calves and right arm.

A WorkSafe investigation ultimately found that the company, Hamilton Flooring Limited, failed to identify and manage the hazards posed by the gas torch and the flammable adhesive at the same time in an enclosed area.

Officials stressed that the company should have ensured no ignition sources were present when using a flammable adhesive and that the bathroom area was safely ventilated.

The company also failed to ensure that appropriate personal protective equipment was worn by the employees while the adhesive was being used.

“Unfortunately the consequences of not adequately managing this risk have resulted in significant pain and injury to a worker,” said WorkSafe chief inspector, Keith Stewart.

Hamilton Flooring Limited pleaded guilty to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court. The judges reserved decision was released yesterday.

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