Steggles Fined $84,000 after Equipment Failures Causes Ammonia Leak
The Land and Environment Court has convicted and fined Steggles Foods Mt Ku-ring-gai Pty Ltd $84,000 after a fault with the company’s refrigeration system caused an ammonia gas leak, causing harm to two company employees on 3 December 2015.
Two workers were exposed to the escaping ammonia gas, which can be toxic to humans. As there were concerned about the health of one of the workers, he was taken to the nearby Hornsby Hospital for further assessment and treatment. He sustained abdominal and chest burning, breathlessness, eye irritation, light-tenderness and nausea. NSW Fire and Rescue officers required personal protective equipment, including safety breathing apparatus, to enter the refrigeration compressor room and identify and stop the source of the ammonia leak. It took two attempts to stop the leak, which was eventually fixed when nuts and bolts were replaced and a faulty gasket repaired.Steggles holds an environment protection licence, issued to it by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), to process livestock and produce general animal products at their Mundowi Road Ku-ring-gai factory.The leak occurred in a compressor unit, which operates one of the factory’s refrigeration systems. The ammonia gas leak occurred when a nut used to secure a bolt on a flange joint was not attached, and a gasket used to secure that flange joint on a discharge pipe failed.Each of these mechanical faults arose from failures on behalf of Steggles to maintain the equipment in a proper and efficient manner – a requirement of Steggles’ environment protection licence.
Steggles entered a guilty plea in April 2017, after co-operating with the EPA’s investigation into the incident.The Court acknowledged that Steggles used third-party refrigeration maintenance contractors, to undertake maintenance of the refrigeration system, but found that the responsibility to properly maintain the system rested with Steggles as the holder of the environment protection licence.The Court also ordered Steggles to publish notices in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Hornsby Advocate publicising its conviction and fine and to pay the EPA’s legal costs.