Primo abattoir fined for gas fire

THE owners of Primo Australia Scone Abattoir have been fined $110,000 after a contractor suffered serious burns when he cut a gas pipe that ignited, the Industrial Relations Commission has heard.

The contractor suffered burns to his arm and head when butane ignited at the Muffett Street factory on February 6, 2010.

The contractor, who had more than 40 years’ experience cutting concrete, was hired to cut concrete and metal floors and  walls when he cut a gas pipe, Justice Roger Boland said.

Either the sparks from the saw or the gas coming in contact with a section of metal ignited the fire.

Making matters worse was that a set of stairs that would have helped the contractor escape had been removed.

The victim had to take a running jump off a concrete slab through a wall where a panel had been removed, the commission heard.

P and M Quality Smallgoods Pty Ltd, which owns the abattoir, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and was fined $110, 000 on Friday.

They were also ordered to pay the prosecutor’s costs.

Justice Boland said the company failed to ensure that a risk assessment was done before the contractor began work and the company also failed to follow a number of their own guidelines and policies.

No one told the contractor that a gas pipe was behind the wall and the gas was not disconnected before work began, the commission heard.

‘‘It was reasonably foreseeable [that the contractor] might cut the pipe creating a serious risk to his safety and perhaps the safety of others,’’ Justice Boland said.

‘‘Where the defendant fell down was in the observance and implementation of its policies and procedures, which is so often the case in my experience with these prosecutions.’’