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NZ Flooring Firm Faces Fireball Fine

Thursday, August 18, 2016

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A flooring company in New Zealand has been fined over worker safety issues after an employee was burned by a fireball while applying adhesive.

According to WorkSafe New Zealand, the country’s occupational safety body, Hamilton Flooring was fined NZ$33,125 ($23,892) and ordered to pay the worker NZ$24,483 ($17,659). The order from the Hamilton District Court came nearly a year after the incident, in which a fire sparked by a blowtorch caused the worker “serious burns,” according to WorkSafe.

Blowtorch Ignites Vapors

According to Stuff, the worker, who was not identified, was using a brush to apply a solvent-based adhesive in a shower stall of a bathroom at a jobsite when the fire occurred. A coworker was working in a nearby toilet stall and reportedly did not realize the gluing was still going on. He ignited a blowtorch and vapors trapped in the closed bathroom ignited, enveloping the victim in a ball of fire.

Applying adhesive
© iStock.com / titi matei

The victim was using a brush to apply a solvent-based adhesive in a shower stall of a bathroom when a coworker ignited a blowtorch.

The victim reportedly suffered burns over a quarter of his body. Stuff reports that he has since returned to work for Hamilton Flooring.

Company Faulted

WorkSafe NZ contends that Hamilton failed to recognize the clear hazards involved in having the adhesive application in the same enclosed room where the blowtorch would be used. The company should have prevented the two jobs from being done at the same time, and should have provided proper ventilation and protective equipment, the agency said.

“Unfortunately, the consequences of not adequately managing this risk have resulted in significant pain and injury to a worker,” said WorkSafe Chief Inspector Keith Stewart.

Hamilton had already paid the worker NZ$22,500 in compensation for the workplace injury, reports say; the ruling adds only about NZ$2,000 to that sum.

The workers were replacing vinyl flooring in a hospital building at the time of the incident. Scoop Media reports that the adhesive the worker was applying contained acetone and toluene, both common flammable solvents.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Adhesive; Floors; Hazards; Health and safety; Safety

Comment from Jesse Melton, (8/18/2016, 4:05 PM)

I think the lesson here is that workplace safety is everybody's problem. Even if the company had provided proper safeguards the guy with the torch and the guy with the flammable chemicals should have been aware of what the other was doing. Fines and financial compensation are all well and good, but none of it matters after someone has been vaporized/crushed/disembowled. That's not to excuse the company, at all, but awareness at the individual level is ultimately the best safety measure money can buy.

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