The defendant held duties under s.27 (1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being an officer of a company that installed floor coverings, including laying resilient flooring in wet areas. This included the use of a hazardous chemical, namely a flammable liquid product known as Roberts 6150 Contact Adhesive. The defendant was the sole director of the company and employed one person (the injured worker).
On 15 January 2015, the defendant and the worker were laying vinyl flooring in the bathroom and toilet areas of a domestic residence. The worker was applying Roberts 6150 Contact Adhesive to the floor of a toilet at a residence, as instructed by the defendant, while the defendant was using heat in the nearby bathroom. Due to the build-up of vapours from the hazardous chemical and the nearby presence of an ignition source a fire erupted and the worker was burnt and sustained serious injuries that required surgical intervention.
The defendant was found guilty after trial to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 and on sentence was fined $12,000.
His Honour stated that no effort was taken to disperse the vapours of the product by use of a fan and that doors opening onto the adjacent hallway were closed reducing any natural ventilation. The Court found that there were no processes in place to exclude an ignition source in the circumstances. His Honour found that the toilet area was small and had a high window (which was closed) preventing the escape of any vapours.
A conviction was not recorded and the Court took into account the defendant's genuine remorse, due to the close relationship he shared with the worker whom he had known on a personal level for many years.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the construction industry where there is exposure to risks from a buildup of a combustible substance, namely vapours produced by a highly flammable contact adhesive, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures.
Risk management involves identifying the hazards, evaluating the consequences and likelihood of harm that may result from the hazard, deciding and implementing control measures to prevent or minimise the level of the risk from the hazard and monitoring the effectiveness of the control measures to ensure they remain working correctly.
When deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of serious injury or death from an explosion or fire, obligation holders should consider:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
- Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace Code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.24 MB)
- Date of offence:
- Burn injuries
- Townsville Magistrates Court
- Magistrate Ross Mack
- s.32 of the duty under s.27(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: