New Zealand Law Society - Burnt employee results in fine for flooring company

Burnt employee results in fine for flooring company

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Hamilton Flooring Ltd has been fined $33,125 and ordered to pay reparations totalling $24,482.88 after an employee was left with serious burns in an incident involving the ignition of flammable solvent adhesive while installing vinyl flooring.

The company pleaded guilty to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court.

image of court bench  

WorkSafe says on 20 August 2015, the victim and a co-worker were replacing vinyl flooring in a bathroom at Waikato Hospital's Henry Rongamau Bennett Centre.

The co-worker was using a LPG gas blow torch while the victim was applying a highly flammable solvent-based adhesive with a paint brush nearby. The naked flame from the blowtorch ignited the adhesive vapours, creating a fireball, resulting in the victim sustaining serious burns to his calves and right arm.

WorkSafe says its investigation found Hamilton Flooring failed to identify and manage the hazards posed by the gas torch and the flammable adhesive at the same time in an enclosed area. It says the company should have made certain that no ignition sources were present when using a flammable adhesive and that the bathroom area was safely ventilated.

The company also failed to ensure that appropriate personal protective equipment was worn by the employees while the adhesive was being used.

WorkSafe Chief Inspector Keith Stewart says working with fire and flammable substances will always come with a high risk.

"Unfortunately the consequences of not adequately managing this risk have resulted in significant pain and injury to a worker,"