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Cement Dust Inhalation Results in Major Fine

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A short period of exposure to cement powder in November of 2009 changed Christopher Leake’s life forever. An employee at Tegra’s cement and construction materials manufacturing plant in Tumut, the then 29 year old Leake suffered severe and permanent injury to his respiratory system when he was caught underneath a large cloud of cement powder that was mistakenly released near where he was working.

The man was almost killed when he inhaled the cement powder, which has permanently reduced his lung capacity to 35 per cent. No mask or breathing equipment was being used at the time,” according to a WorkCover statement, released on 9 July. “The man has had serious health complications since the incident, including a heart attack, and is still unable to return to work.”
 
WorkCover launched an investigation into the incident shortly after it occurred. The investigation found that “an accidental release of cement was foreseeable and should have been planned for, including requiring all employees to wear face masks while on site,” according to the statement.
 
Tegra Australia Party Ltd currently controls quarries as well as a fleet of haulage trucks and agitators in addition to the manufacturing plant. The company was founded in 1964 by John Sargent as a single-truck hauling enterprise, according to Tegra’s website. The company has been deeply involved in the handling and distribution of construction concrete since its formation.
 
Prosecutors brought allegations against Tegra before the Industrial Court of New South Wales in response to WorkCover’s findings. The court held the case hearing on 18 June, 2012. Prosecutors charged Tegra Australia Pty Ltd with contravening the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000, to which the company entered a guilty plea. Tegra was fined $80,000 for the violation and was also required to pay prosecution costs.
 
Among other “Acts and Omissions” of the law, the court found that Tegra failed to ensure that a risk assessment was undertaken to identify possible risks of uncontrolled cement powder discharge from the batching equipment. The company also failed to instruct their employees on how to deal with this type of hazardous situation, according to the court’s case judgment.
 
“Companies must maintain a high level of safety in everyday activities,” said WorkCover NSW general manager John Watson in the release. “Working with heavy machinery in manufacturing plants like these can be dangerous. Mandating, and supervising the wearing of facemasks is a well-known and practical way to improving safety.”

Source:  Safe To Work

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