Worker fined $6000 over burns to fellow worker
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An employee of a civil contracting company has been fined $6000 (and ordered to pay $517.50 in costs) after a fellow employee suffered burns when brake cleaning chemical he had been sprayed with ignited.
Chad Gordon Browning pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care of the safety of another employee and causing him serious harm, and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court yesterday. Mr Browning was granted a spent conviction.
In August 2014, Mr Browning – a senior plant mechanic – was working with another plant mechanic to clean, service, repair and remove the air conditioning system from a skid-steer loader at Densford Civil Pty Ltd’s workshop in Osborne Park.
The mechanic completed the work allocated to him and brought the bucket from the skid-steer loader into the workshop. After a discussion with Mr Browning and the workshop manager, he commenced welding work on the bucket.
During the course of this work, Mr Browning stood two to three metres behind the other mechanic at a 45-degree angle and sprayed him for two to three seconds with a pressurised spray bottle of highly flammable brake cleaning chemical. The fluid landed on the rear left side of the mechanic’s shirt.
The mechanic was unaware of Mr Browning’s action, and continued working. Due to the lack of reaction from the mechanic, Mr Browning returned to work on the skid-steer loader.
A minute or so later, the mechanic was welding when he heard a “woof” sound and large flames came up from under his welding mask. The brake cleaning chemical on his shirt had ignited, resulting in serious burns to the left side of his torso.
He received specialist treatment at Royal Perth Hospital, including a large skin graft, and remained in hospital for ten days and off work for a month.
Mr Browning said he had no intention of causing harm to his workmate, and neither was it a case of harassment or bullying. He said this type of horseplay had previously occurred between the two men, although without the ignition source.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today the incident should serve as a warning against indulging in dangerous acts in the workplace in the guise of “horseplay between workmates”.
“The court accepted that Mr Browning did not intend this serious harm to happen, but it should serve as a warning that fooling around in workplaces that contain hazards can easily become serious and result in injuries,” Mr McCulloch said.
“Mr Browning directed a stream of highly flammable brake cleaning chemical at his workmate when he was aware – or should have been aware – that he was soon to be carrying out hot work.
“At best it was an irresponsible act that resulted in a great deal of suffering for the worker affected by the prank.
“WA’s workplace safety laws say that Mr Browning failed to take reasonable care of his workmate’s safety or health and that this failure caused serious harm, and he has now paid the price in court for his lack of responsibility.
“The lesson to be learned is that pranks of this type in hazardous workplaces can easily turn into a very serious situation for all concerned.”
Further information on workplace safety and health can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.
Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)
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