Waikato firm to pay $140K over workplace fatality

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A Waikato company has been ordered to pay more than $140,000 in reparations after one of its employees was killed in a workplace accident late last year.

Terence James Milne suffered fatal injuries in November 2015 when a bitumen emulsion tank he was working with exploded.

The emulsion was being transferred under pressure from a transport tank – known as an “emulsion pig” – to a heating tank. However, a blockage in the transfer line caused a build-up of pressure which caused the rear plate welds of the emulsion pig to fail. The rear plate was forced open, swinging and striking the victim.

“The issue here, and what industry needs to be very aware of, is that the emulsion pig was not constructed to take pressure and nor was there an over-pressure safety device fitted to it," said WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Stewart.

The company, Corboy Earthmovers, had previously used pumps to transfer the emulsion – a method Stewart said was far safer – but started using compressed air in 2007.

“When Corboy started using compressed air it did not identify pressure build-up as a risk and it should have used a properly designed and constructed pressure vessel – that would have avoided this tragedy,” said Stewart.

"Using pressure to transfer materials between containers has inherent risks which must be identified and managed no matter what the circumstances are, and under no circumstances should containers which are not pressure-rated vessels be used.”

Corboy Earthmovers was charged under the Health and Safety in Employment Act with failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employee while at work.

Yesterday, the company was ordered to pay reparations of $140,319.80 by the Hamilton District Court. The charge carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

The judge also suggested an appropriate fine would have been $73,800 but declined to impose the additional sanction, noting that the company is in liquidation.

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