A Kwinana company has been fined $50,000 after one its employees was injured by an exploding drum.
The man was working for Tox Free at a waste management facility in Kwinana Beach in March 2010 and was told to cut triangular holes in the lids of 205 litre metal drums with an angle grinder to prepare them for crushing.
Some of the drums treated by the company had contained flammable, combustible or explosive materials.
The man safely cut holes in four drum lids but when he cut into a fifth lid, the contents of the drum and the drum itself exploded.
He suffered superficial burns to both forearms and later underwent surgery for a cartilage tear in his wrist.
Tox Free pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and was fined $45,000 in Rockingham Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
The company was fined an additional $5000 for failing to report this incident.
The court found the company was aware of the risk of drum contents exploding but had not made employees aware of the hazard and no safe work practice or job safety assessment had been circulated.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said it was extremely fortunate that the man had survived the incident.
“A worker died in 2002 when a similar metal drum exploded when he attempted to cut it with an angle grinder, and another worker was killed in similar circumstances in 2010,” he said.
“Last year, a worker died when a 4500 litre fuel tank he was cutting with an angle grinder exploded.”
Mr McCulloch said a Kalgoorlie worker narrowly escaped death last month when a drum he was cutting with an oxy torch exploded.
“The lid struck his forehead and he was seriously injured, but if he had been standing in a slightly different position he probably would not have survived,” he said.
Mr McCulloch said employers had an obligation to report to WorkSafe any injury listed in the legislation or any other injury that would render an employee unfit for work for more than ten days.