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Prosecution Details

Offender Svitzer Australia Pty Ltd (formerly known as Adsteam Harbour Pty Ltd)


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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 FR16610/08 23 June 2006 8th June 2009 3A(2)(b)(i) $10,000.00 8th June 2009
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer, failed to, so far as practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which its employees were not exposed to hazards contrary to Sections 19(1) and 19A(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The Accused (then known as Adsteam Harbour Pty Ltd) operated tug boat services in Fremantle harbour. One vessel operated by the Accused was the tugboat Burra ("Burra"). The Burra was owned by a company related but separate to the Accused.

On 23 June 2006 employees of the Accused ("the crew") were directed to re-install a large extinguisher cylinder that had previously been removed from the Burra for servicing. They were directed to do so by the Fleet Manager. However, they were instructed to not touch the firing mechanism or to arm the extinguisher.

The cylinder is part of a fixed FM200 fixed fire suppression system distributed by Kidde Australia. This system was part of the vessel when the Accused acquired the vessel in December 2000 and appears to have always been part of the vessel's fire suppression system.

The system is approved for use in Australia by the Australian National Marine Safety Committee ("NMSC") and is recorded on their list of fire appliances that comply with the Uniform Shipping Laws Code as being an appliance that has been approved by a recognised certification body or testing and listing authority. The details of this listing on the NMSC register of approved appliances states that installation must be performed in compliance with the requirements described in the product manual by accredited installers only.

This cylinder stands approximately 1.6 metres tall, is approximately 0.6 metres in diameter and weighs approximately 330 kilograms when full. The cylinder had previously been removed from the Burra by another crew in November 2005 in an attempt to weigh the cylinder to see if it was leaking suppressant. The cylinder was removed and weighed without incident. When this crew were re-installing the firing mechanism some gas was heard to leak. The crew ceased the re-installation and reported the incident. The installation was then later completed by the crew under the supervision of a technician from WA Fire Protection. The technician held a class 3 extinguishing agent licence allowing him to install or oversee the installation of this cylinder. This removal and re-installation was overseen by one of the crew who had reviewed the manufacturer's instruction manual prior to removal and, until the gas was heard to leak when he attempted to re-connect the firing mechanism, the cylinder was removed and re-installed in accordance with those instructions.

In normal operation the cylinder is attached to the bulkhead by 2 straps. The Burra's complete system consists of 2 cylinders side by side. On this occasion only one cylinder was tested for leaks and removed. A different crew had removed this cylinder and were overseen in this task by the same WA Fire Protection technician who had previously assisted.

The cylinder was hoisted into position on the Burra and then manhandled into the extinguisher room by the crew. The crew then proceeded to begin to install the cylinder by removing the discharge safety cap and connecting the dispersement manifold (a solid elbow joint leading from the cylinder to the dispersement system) to the cylinder. The safety cap on the trigger mechanism was not touched or removed.

The manufacturer's specifications call for a flexible hose to connect the cylinder to the dispersement system. This hose was not evident on the Burra. These specifications also call for the dispersement manifold to be connected to the dispersement system before the cylinder is finally connected to the manifold and for the cylinder to be secured before anything else occurs. Due to the configuration of the elbow joint the cylinder could not be aligned in position allowing the manifold to first be connected to the dispersement system as the solid elbow joint could not be rotated past the bulkhead. Accordingly the crew did not secure the cylinder to the bulkhead before beginning this process nor did they fix the manifold to the dispersement system first.

Upon fixing the dispersement manifold to the cylinder the crew then rotated the cylinder and attempted to connect the manifold to the fixed dispersement pipes. The cylinder was still not secured to the bulkhead. At this stage the cylinder violently discharged and was propelled around the extinguisher room striking the crew before escaping and propelling itself approximately 15 metres across the deck.

The crew received various injuries however, no permanent injury was sustained. However these injuries could have easily been quite serious.

The crew did not touch the firing mechanism in any fashion nor did they receive any training or instruction in how this cylinder ought to be installed.

The manufacturer's handbook for this system was located on board and stated that the first step in (re)installing a cylinder is to secure it to the bulkhead.

The Greenhouse Gas Act and Regulations stipulate that an extinguisher system containing FM200 suppressant must be performed or overseen by a person holding a class 3 licence. No such person was present at the time the cylinder was re-installed on 23 June 2006. For a qualified technician to have supervised the reinstallation of the cylinder would have cost approximately $800. This cylinder had previously been removed and installed under a technician's supervision without incident.

Either of these measures were practicable steps for the Accused to have taken to avoid the risk of this hazard eventuating. A further practicable measure was to not permit the crew to perform that work until the owner of the vessel (a related company) had modified the suppression system to accord with the manufacturer's specifications so the cylinders could easily be secured to the bulkhead before being reconnected to the fire suppression dispersement system.

Outcome Summary

Plead Guilty

Court Magistrates Court Fremantle
Costs $1,180.70

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