Fatal Explosion results in home detention for a New Zealand company owner

8 January 2018

A contract worker killed in an explosion resulted in the owner of a New Zealand oil recycling company being fined NZ$25,000 (AU$22,587) and 4.5 months of home detention for breaching the country’s work health and safety and hazardous substance laws.

He had been welding and grinding a tank whilst perched atop it, however the tank exploded due to the flammable vapours it contained. The force of the explosion threw the worker 130 metres onto a nearby car, sustaining injuries which subsequently killed him.

WorkSafe New Zealand investigations chief inspector Keith Stewart stated that the “violations of health and safety requirements in this case were numerous and serious”.

As a result, the owner of Salters Cartage Ltd (SCL) to which the tank belonged, was also fined NZ$258,750 (AUD$233,781) whilst Ronald Salter, the owner of the company, was ordered to jointly pay NZ$128, 074 (AUD$115, 715) in reparations. The worker’s employer, Race Works Ltd, was convicted of safety breaches but later discharged without penalty.

Chief Inspector Keith Stewart said that he hopes in light of this tragedy and harsh punishment “every participant in the industry takes time to ensure they’re absolutely on top of their health and safety responsibilities” as ultimately, “health and safety legislation and rules for dealing with hot work and flammable vapours are there to try and avoid such tragedies”.