Prospect Building Services and its Harry Twarowski pleaded guilty in the Industrial Court over the 2009 explosion.
The company was in operation for three decades without incident prior to the explosion which they admitted was a result of failing to provide a safe working environment to an employee. The employee in question had drilled through bricks on the home in order fill homes with a solvent-based fluid to treat salt damp.
However, the employee failed to turn off the home’s gas hot water service which caught on fire and caused a massive explosion upon coming into contact with the liquids vapours.
Industrial Magistrate Michael Ardlie called it “sheer luck” that no was one harmed especially the 88 year old World War Two veteran who occupied the house.
Mr Ardlie said the explosion could have easily been avoided.
“The measures that should have been taken and were reasonably practicable were straight forward and simple,” Mr Ardlie found.
“The employee should have been educated as to the hazards imposed by the use of the solvent.”
The company and Mr Twarowski were fined $68,000 and $8,500 respectively and ordered to pay $500 compensation for medical treatment incurred by the occupant’s son.
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Distraught Victorian firefighters have called out the emergency services minister regarding the state government’s failure to pass illness compensation laws.
Currently firefighters in Victoria who have contracted cancer that may have been caused by their workplace conditions are not covered by WorkCover payments.
However a small contingent of firefighters employed by the commonwealth, mostly at airports, are able to claim government comp since a 2011 federal law was passed.
Firefighter Marcel Van Elmpt says commonwealth firefighters are covered by compensation legislation if there is a fire at the airport, but if they needed support, state crews would not get the same coverage.
“Same fires, same exposures, same carcinogens, same cancers, but we’re not covered,” he said.
Mr Wells said the government was anticipating a report by Monash University due to be released next year before decisions are made on the future.
He said Victoria had almost 60,000 volunteer firefighters that needed to be taken into account and the laws only apply for full-time firefighters.
“It would be unfair to deal with some people in the CFA (Country Fire Authority) and not other people in the CFA for example.”
United Firefighters Union national secretary Peter Marshall said there was a clear link between occupational cancer and firefighting.
Marshal stated that firefighters based in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania covered volunteer firefighters.
“There is no excuse for any further delay on legislation protecting firefighters here,” he said.
“As we speak, it’s an emotive issue, but it’s a real issue – firefighters are dying from occupational cancer.”
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The Fire brigade will launch a social media campaign and mobile phone app that aims to educate international students about Fire Safety. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade conducted focus groups with foreign students to gain insight into the optimum ways of reaching them via online networks.
Tentative plans are to launch the campaign next year.
MFB station officer of the Community Education Department, John Hale, stated that many international students live in crowded, dangerous conditions with no smoke alarms and a variety of other fire hazards. The focus groups revealed that many students were afraid to object to the conditions because they were fearful for their student visas. ‘They just don’t want to make a fuss,’’ Hale said.
The MFB plans to release videos and written safety information releases in a variety of languages for students prior to leaving their home country. According to another officer, Rod East, on a weekly basisup to two incidents are attended to at rooming houses, often with international students. East claims to have seen up to 19 students living in one house and he does not think this is uncommon for rooming houses.Recently, fire crews attended to a fire at Reservoir garage that which had been renovated into student housing. The garage was found to not have been properly equipped with smoke alarms and had an overloaded electrical system which potentially caused the fire.
‘‘That actually had three rooms in it. It was only a tin garage that had lining on it,’’ East said.
All the students had reportedly fled the site before fire crews arrived. East said ‘‘If you don’t get to them early enough you’ll never see them again.’’
East stressed that students should be aware that they deserve safe accommodation,he added, ‘‘They don’t have to live like this.’’
Council of International Students Australia national president Aleem Nizari recently discussed his experiences with overcrowding in rooming houses. He witnessed one instance where 16 students were living in a three-bedroom house. He had even witnessed a case inwhich a wardrobe was offered as a bedroom to a student.