Two companies have been fined a total of $155,000 after a worker in Western Sydney was blinded and left with multiple facial and skull fractures when a high-pressure gas hose fitting came loose.
Weldlok operates a large welding and fabrication facility in Yagoona, and Fluid Tech Hydraulics Pty Ltd is based in Lidcombe and does onsite installation and maintenance of fluid gas equipment as well as welding and fabrication.
On 13 October 2006, 63-year-old shift supervisor Hasib Kamenjasevic was switching over the gas lines from the empty to full high pressure oxygen tanks.
However, an explosion occurred within the hose and fittings connected to the high pressure oxygen tanks and they broke away from the tanks and struck him with considerable force on the face and head.
He sustained significant injuries to his head and face, which resulted in the loss of sight in both eyes, and multiple skull and facial fractures.
Mr Kamenjasevic also spent months in rehabilitation and his permanent injuries mean he will never be able to return to work.
The WorkCover investigation found that both companies had failed to carry out appropriate safety protocols that would most likely have prevented these serious injuries.
The NSW Industrial Court was told that approximately six months earlier, Mr Kamenjasevic’s employer Weldlok, contracted Fluid Tech to install the high-pressure oxygen line with hose and fittings.
The investigation found that Fluid Tech installed a hose designed primarily for hydraulics, and not designed for use with high-pressure oxygen.
Fluid Tech did not ensure the hose and its fitting was certified for use with high pressure oxygen, nor did they carry out any safety tests on the hose or its fittings to ensure they were safe for use prior to, during or after the installation.
Weldlok had also failed to carry out their own risk assessment which the court found would most likely have discovered the incorrect hose and fittings.
Fluid Tech Hydraulics Pty Ltd and Weldlok were charged with breaches of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000. Fluid Tech Hydraulics was fined $95,000 and Weldlok fined $60,000.
WorkCover NSW’s General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division John Watson said high pressure oxygen had explosive properties and strict safety guidelines have to be followed.
“Working with high-pressure gases can be dangerous,” Mr Watson said. “This is why every precaution must be taken to protect all workers.
“It is critically important to ensure that gas fittings are fit for their correct purpose and any changes to gas-lines or pipes are carried out by qualified gas fitters and in accordance with the safety instructions of the designer, manufacturer or supplier of the equipment.
“This is to protect the health and safety of users by effectively controlling the potential for a violent release of contents from pressurised gas installations.