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Piling contractor fined $40,000 after pressure explosion on Western Downs


4 December 2023

A company pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay $40,000 after exploding aerosol cans caused a metal bar to strike and injure a worker on a piling rig at a Western Downs solar farm.

The defendant was sub-contracted by the principal contractor of the solar farm to provide piling services and failed to eliminate or minimise the risk of 12 galvanised aerosol cans exploding. The 4.7kg metal bar was propelled into the worker when the aerosol cans exploded while they were stored inside a toolbox on the rig.

The magistrate found the defendant should have known about the explosion risk. The defendant had a safety data sheet for the aerosol cans which noted they were hazardous, contained flammable aerosol, were pressurised, and may burst if heated. The defendant also had a manual for the piling rig which warned that some surfaces of the piling rig including the engine could over-heat.

The toolbox was positioned 11cms away from the piling rig engine air outlet - this blew warm air onto the toolbox while the piling rig operated. The force of the explosion was such that the 4.7kg metal bar was found approximately two metres away from the piling rig.

The defendant’s safety procedure for the piling process did not contain any specific procedures for safe storage of the aerosol cans, incorrectly noted there were no hazardous substances used during the piling process, and did not include a warning about storing the aerosol cans near sources of heat. The defendant should have provided a safe location to store the aerosol cans and trained its workers to store them away from sources of heat.

The magistrate considered the defendant had no prior criminal history and that it acted well by implementing risk controls shortly after the incident. The defendant was fined $40,000 and did not have a conviction recorded. The company was also ordered to pay $1,500 in professional costs and $101.40 in fees.

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