Tyre explosion sees business fined

Date: Jan 11, 2012

The NSW Industrial Court has fined a company and its director a total of $170,000 after it found that inadequate measures were taken to protect the health and safety of a worker who was injured when a tyre exploded.

An investigation by WorkCover NSW alleged that in 2009 a worker at the Lower River Tyre Centre in Yamba was not provided with sufficient protection when discharging his duties.

The court heard that on May 25 2009, a 47-year-old male fitter was equipping an earth grader with six spilt rim rubber tyres as part of his normal role.

Unfortunately one of the heavy wheels exploded as it was being inflated, striking the man in the head and chest with chunks of high-density debris.

The tyre was 1.4 metres in diameter and the rubber used in its construction was up to 40 centimetres thick.

Because the fitter was not provided with an appropriate safety cage or dedicated barrier, he was hit with the full force of pressure released by the exploding wheel.

He required surgery as a result – and thanks to some complications experienced while on the table, the man subsequently required months of recovery and rehabilitative therapies.

WorkCover's investigation also found that the devices used to inflate the massive tyres were not fitted with appropriate safety measures – such as emergency valves and pressure switches – that could have prevented the incident form occurring.

In addition, the authority also discovered that the company did not perform any risk or hazard checks, nor did they have any Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) documentation or training protocols in place at the time of the accident.

As a result both Lower River and its director were convicted of breaching OH&S legislation and subsequently fined $160,000 and $10,000 respectively.

Speaking on the court's decision, WorkCover NSW’s acting chief executive John Watson said that the combination of poor preparation and a lack of safety gear meant that an accident was entirely foreseeable.

"It is critically important that all people involved in the work are provided with appropriate training and instruction, and that the company provide adequate supervision," asserted Watson.

The acting CEO also took the opportunity to remind employers that any situation that involved heavy machinery was potentially dangerous and that "every precaution must be taken" to protect employees.

Accidents in the workplace can cause considerable hardship for the victims – with time off for rehabilitation meaning they are unable to work.

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