By on October 29, 2004

Ammonium Nitrate

Sarah Kerr, CMPA Secretary

The CMPA was recently invited to attend a forum to discuss the issue of ammonium nitrate. The following is a summary of the issue and WorkSafe’s subsequent response.

A national review into ammonium nitrate has been conducted under the auspices of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG),which recommended the development of nationally uniform measures to regulate the supply chain of ammonium nitrate, including explosives grade ammonium nitrate.

On June 25th, COAG agreed on a national approach to ban access to ammonium nitrate for those other than specifically authorised users. The agreement will result in the establishment in each jurisdiction of a licensing regime for the use,manufacture, storage, transport, supply, import and export of ammonium nitrate, ensuring it is only accessible to persons who have a demonstrated legitimate need for the product, are not of a security concern, and will store and handle the product safely and securely.

According to Mr Derrick Harrison,Project Manager, Hazards Management Division, Work Cover,the Victorian government believes taking measures to restrict the availability of ammonium nitrate to legitimate users is a necessary and responsible step. It is an action to prevent persons or organisations that seek to use its availability and explosive potential to harm Australian interests, and should not be seen as a criticism of those who have been responsibly using ammonium nitrate for legitimate purposes.

In order to establish how these changes will be implemented, the CMPA’s Chairperson, Mr Grant Phillips, attended a Stakeholder Consultation Meeting on August1st along with another CMPA member, Mr Roy Webb.

From this meeting, it was established that amendments will need to be made to several pieces of legislation including the following:

  • Dangerous Goods Act;
  • Terrorism (Community Protection) Act; and possibly
  • Road Transport (Dangerous Goods Act).

Amendments to the Dangerous Goods Act specifically are proposed to cover issues such as regulation making powers, the objectives of the Act with regards to the management of security risks, establishing a framework that will enable regulation of other similar dangerous goods subsequently regulated, and set a process for forfeiture and disposal.

In addition to these amendments, a new Dangerous Goods regulation is proposed that will cover ammonium nitrate.

According to the report presented by Mr Phillips, the reason for this change is to increase security and hopefully, reduce the threat of terrorism, “ ‘ANFO’ is a widely accepted and understood bomb making product—these changes aim to reduce the ability to access this common product”.

The changes will include a complete traceability of the product from the supplier to end user. This will result in increased requirements for the transport, use and storage from the point of view of using ammonium nitrate on the quarry site.

The CMPA appreciates the opportunity to be involved in this process and looks forward to continue working with WorkCover to ensure a fair and practicable end result is achieved.

Absolute Shocker

This issue’s Absolute Shocker, found in a shipping container on a Victorian
construction site, is a textbook example of how not to store dangerous goods. In fact, it could just about be classified as a Weapon of Mass Destruction.

This particular recipe for disaster included the following deadly ingredients:

  • No spill trays under containers,
  • Combustible plastic ground sheet,
  • Air vents sealed with taped plastic,
  • Switched on oil-filled heater, and
  • No fire extinguishers.

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Site Incident

Robert Snowden, Galli Quarries

Location: Quarry – Workshop.
At approximately 11:30am on Tuesday 23rd March 2004, a Quarry Worker accidentally injected thinners into the top of his left index finger whilst operating an Airless Spray Painting Unit, resulting in the top of the finger having to be amputated.

The employee did not have experience in operating the Airless Spray Painting Unit, and did not appreciate the high spraying pressure of the unit. As a consequence, when he pointed the gun at his finger to test for paint in the gun, thinners was actually injected into the finger because of the gun’s high pressure, causing nerve damage and internal chemical burns to the finger and hand.

The employee was immediately taken to the local hospital where it was decided to take him to the Northern Hospital in Epping for attention. After monitoring of the finger over the next 4 weeks, it was decided by a specialist to amputate the top of the finger, as it had ‘effectively died’.

Some 7 weeks after the incident, the Plant Operator returned to work on 10th May, on a restricted work program. Since then, he has adjusted very well to his incapacity, being actively involved in administrative duties whilst slowly adapting to his post incident work duties.

It is now some 25 weeks after the incident, and although feeling is improving in the injured hand, it will be a long time before the employee has full use of his finger and left hand.

Contributing Factors to the Incident:

After a thorough investigation of the incident it was determined that:

  • The Unit was left in a dirty state after its previous use at another site, resulting in the safety warnings on the unit being illegible;
  • The Unit was not provided with Safe Operating Procedures (SWP) and/or Operators Manual and/or an MSDS for the materials used; and
  • The Quarry Worker had not been fully trained in the correct use of the Airless Spray Painting Unit


There have been a number of positive outcomes (very important reminders) from the incident:

Workplace Safety at the Quarry has experienced a renewed emphasis.

Hazard Identification has been conducted across all facets of the Quarry operations, resulting in numerous SWP’s being written to combat the many potential dangers, a SWP for the Airless Spray Painting Unit being the first.

Use of the Airless Spray Painting Unit has been restricted to one person only – who has been approved as a competent operator of the Unit. A Register is now kept of when the Unit is used, along with details of the operator.

Training of all Quarry personnel in their relevant SWP’s is continuing. The incident has been designated as ‘major’ by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) because of the amputation – as a result, the DPI has performed a thorough investigation into the incident, including a formal Criminal Caution Interview. As of 9th September, the DPI is yet to decide
on what action it will take.

Buckle up, judge warns industry

Supplied by Thompson, Occupational Health News

Boral CEO Rod Pearse has welcomed an unusual court order that half an OHS fine should be used by NSW WorkCover to provide information on wearing seat-belts while driving heavy equipment.

“We agree with the view that it is necessary to draw the attention of others to the inherent risks which flow if policies are not followed particularly in relation to the wearing of seat belts,” Pearse said “The loss of Paul Urquart, a long-term and respected employee, as a result of a workplace accident was particularly tragic given that the judgement has found the immediate cause of Mr Urquart’s tragic death appears to have been his failure to wear the seat belt, which, on the evidence, would have kept him safe.”

Pearse’s comments followed Boral Construction Materials being fined $200,000 for failing to properly enforce its seat belt policy. Experienced driver Paul Urquart, who had worked for Boral for more than 20 years and was on the company’s seat belt policy committee, was killed when the roller he was driving toppled off the ramp of a loader. He was crusher by the rollover protection bars.

A sticker on the dash of the roller said: ‘Danger, a rollover potential exists wear your seat restraint.’ But the evidence showed Urquart was not wearing a seat belt, contrary to the company’s policy.

Justice Monika Schmidt said the explanation could rest with Boral’s training, which was provided by a driver who preferred not to wear a seat belt. In an unusual move, Justice Schmidt called on the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) and NSW WorkCover to publicise the prosecution. She highlighted RTA and WorkCover deficiencies in providing information about wearing seat belts to the heavy vehicle industry, which were brought to her attention by prosecuting counsel to show general deterrence had a significant role to play when assessing the penalty.

An RTA investigation revealed it was common practice in the industry not to wear a seat belt when loading steel drum rollers because of restricted visibility. A spokesperson for RTA said the authority could not comment on the case until it had officially received the judgement from the court registrar.

Reprinted courtesy of Occupational Health News, published by CPD, phone: 03 9205 0681.

Incident Report—Drill Rig Rollover

A trades assistant working for a contract maintenance company broke a bone in his ankle whilst pushing a trolley containing an Oxy Acetylene bottle. Under investigation.

Incident Report—Manual Labour Accident

A contract driller was reversing a drill rig from the drilling area to refuel. The drill rig rolled after driving onto unstable ground. The operator was taken to hospital and no serious injuries were found. The drill rig was significantly damaged. Under investigation.

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