A Sydney service station operator has been fined $85,000 and convicted for failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers and putting other persons at risk after a dangerous gas fire broke out at the service station.

The incident occurred on 20 August 2012 when a staff member was decanting liquid petroleum gas (LPG) from a large cylinder into a customer’s smaller cylinder when the LPG suddenly ignited, causing a significant fire at the service station.

No one was injured in the fire but there was significant property damage. At the time of the incident four separate customer cylinders were connected to the larger decanting cylinders installed at the site. A single attendant was working in the filling area. The deadman’s handle on each of the four customer cylinders had been jammed opened with screwdrivers or lengths of metal wedged under the pivot end of the trigger.

Following a WorkCover investigation into the incident, the service station operator was charged under Section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the Act) with breaches of section 19 (1) and section 19 (2) of the Act. The operator pleaded guilty to both charges.

Judge Kearns said it was important for operators in this industry to be aware of the consequences of failing to ensure all reasonably practicable measures had been taken to ensure the health and safety of workers and other persons where work of this nature is being undertaken.

WorkCover’s Executive Director Work Health and Safety Peter Dunphy said the incident was caused by the failure to follow the safety systems the service station operator had in place.

“The incident was clearly foreseeable, and indeed foreseen, as the director of the business had twice before sacked employees for overriding the deadman’s handle,” Mr Dunphy said.

“In the worst case scenario, the consequences of not following work health and safety procedures could have led to the death or serious injury of an employee or member of the public. There are simple steps to be followed to minimise the risk of fire and in previous cases the service station operators had been quite willing to apply these steps.

Since the incident, the company has considerably improved their systems .A fire proof wall has now been installed at the site.  It is now not physically possible to fill more than one customer cylinder at any given time as there is only one filler hose available at the site.  There are no longer screwdrivers and lengths of metal available which could be used to jam open the deadman’s handles. The filling process is now able to monitored using an upgraded security camera system by which the filling work can even be observed remotely from a mobile phone device.

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