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Australian paper group fined $170,000 after pulp mill fire

30 April 2012

Visy Pulp and Paper has been fined $170,000 after two employees sustained serious burns while carrying out maintenance in 2008 at one of its pulp and paper mills at Tumut, west of Canberra. The mill produces recycled paper for the packaging and building industries.

The Visy Pulp and Paper plant at Tumut, NSW
The Visy Pulp and Paper plant at Tumut, NSW

On 12 February 2008, two men were carrying out maintenance on a piece of the mill’s production equipment, known as a chip meter, which melts wood chips into pulp under extreme heat and chemical exposure.

The two men were given approval to commence the maintenance before all the wood chips and chemicals had been completely removed from the equipment.

After opening the door hot steam and chemicals and wood chips ejected from the chip meter, causing serious chemical and thermal burns to both men. Neither man was wearing a chemical suit at the time.

A WorkCover NSW investigation found that Visy had failed to provide adequate supervision, training and instruction so that the maintenance was carried out in accordance with the company’s procedures. Although the company had a range of safety policies, Visy had failed to adequately enforce those procedures and as a result workers were seriously injured.

Visy was charged with one breach of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000 and pleaded guilty. Apart from the fine, it will also pay Workcover NSW’s costs.

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