The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

The Dangers of Reactive Chemical Hazards

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An Australian metal foundry has been fined $90,000 after it was found guilty of charges relating to an explosion that severely burned one worker and left another with severe trauma.

The workers were employed at Graham Campbell Ferrum (GCF) in West Footscray, Victoria.  On the day of the accident, they were decanting hazardous chemicals from one container into another container they believed contained the same chemical.
In reality, the two chemicals were an incompatible resin and catalyst which, when mixed could result in an explosive reaction.

It was like a bomb going off, said one of the workers, that's how I'd describe it.  The worker suffered burns to more than three-quarters of his body.  He was hospitalised for three months and spent one month in rehabilitation. 
Although the company claimed the employees should have read the chemical labels, a WorkSafe investigation found the company failed to properly manage chemicals handling and storage, while training for employees was inadequate. 

The court found that the workers had never been properly trained in the chemicals' use and dangers.  For those reasons, the company was found guilty of failing to provide a safe workplace or adequate training in hazardous substances handling. 

Victorian WorkSafe Authority counsel Nicholas Papas said the workplace law was "risk-driven" and the company should have eliminated or managed risk associated with chemical handling.

For useful tools for managing risk across a variety of jobs involving hazardous chemicals, click the links to our “personal safety tools, “operational safety tools”, “process safety tools” and “behavioural safety tools”.

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