A LIQUID fertiliser manufacturer has been fined after WorkSafe Victoria uncovered safety breaches at its Koorlong plant following an incident where two workers were sprayed with phosphoric acid.
Nu-Edge Solutions Australia Pty Ltd was not charged over the July 2017 incident when the workers were left with serious injuries from the acid but WorkSafe inspectors who attended the plant after the incident laid charges over unrelated safety breaches.
The Mildura Magistrates’ Court heard a Nu-Edge worker attempted to fix a malfunctioning pump himself without authorisation from a supervisor when acid sprayed into the air, injuring him and a nearby electrician.
The Nu-Edge worker had been decanting phosphoric acid from the 1000 litre containers in which the chemical is imported into the country, into a larger 40,000 litre vat, when the pump stopped working.
A WorkSafe prosecutor told the court that inspectors later visited the Greentek Court plant and found workers were placing full 1000 litre acid containers on a tyre on a forklift while decanting as well as rust on some racking.
Nu-Edge was also charged with breaching regulations by failing to display a safety instruction placard and failing to provide a spill kit.
The company, represented in court by
defence lawyer Rob Stary, pleaded guilty to the charges.
WorkSafe argued that while the safety breaches did not lead to serious consequences, the company should be sentenced based on the risk of serious injury that was posed.
The company has since addressed the safety issues in response to WorkSafe notices.
Mr Stary said Nu-Edge had co-operated with WorkSafe since its Mildura manufacturing plant was established in 2015 and had remained a good corporate citizen, referring the two workers injured in the acid incident to medical specialists in Melbourne and providing financial support for their families while they travelled to receive treatment.
The employee who attempted to fix the pump returned to work and remains
employed by the company.
The electrician, a subcontractor, sustained severe damage to his right eye and has begun civil action.
Magistrate Jon Klestadt fined Nu-Edge $40,000 for the safety breaches and ordered they pay $3505 in court costs.
However, he did not impose a conviction, noting the company had no prior history and had been co-operative with authorities.
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