Company to pay $16,000 after workers inhale poisonous fumes
Thursday 29 April 2003
A Hawkes Bay company has been sentenced to pay $16,000 in reparation costs after two workers became ill after inhaling poisonous fumes.
Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-operative Limited was sentenced today in the Napier District Court by Judge Rea.
Two men from Winstone Aggregates who were situated across the road from Ravensdown were harmed, one seriously, after they were exposed to silicon tetrafluoride emissions from the Ravensdown Awatoto site, said Murray Thomson, OSH Service Manager Hawkes Bay - East Coast.
New Zealanders being harmed and killed at work is simply unacceptable. As a result of this incident one of the men has since been diagnosed with Reactive Airways Disease Syndrome and cannot return to work on that site for fear of serious exposure.
The judge commented that the potential for damage to a number of people by an incident such as this was quite obvious. He also commented that it was concerning to know that an emission such as this has occurred immediately adjacent to a main highway.
If this poisonous cloud was to descend on a larger number of people, the results could be horrific. He also commented that this particular incident falls at the higher range of culpability.
The company failed to take all practicable steps to ensure that emissions from its plant did not cause harm to persons in the vicinity. There is no room for employers to wait until an accident occurs, pay the fine, and then try to do better in the future.
They should have ensured that their equipment, plant and processes were designed and maintained so as to reduce the release of fugitive emissions into the workplace during the production process.
The company could have achieved this by upgrading its hygiene air ventilation system to ensure more effective capture of fugitive emissions in the manufacturing area.
Everyone has the right to be safe at work, said Mr Thomson.
Companies must ensure that workplace hazards are identified and controlled correctly, and that their safety systems are constantly reviewed and updated.