Economic fallout of Apache Energy pipeline explosion

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According to an AAP report published in The Australian on 6 June 2008, Paul Adams, head of research at DJ Carmichael, spoke about the impact of the Apache Energy explosion.

“If damage to the Apache plant turned out to be significant, the incident had the potential to “hit WA’s mining industry hard”, Mr Adams said.

Apache could face a massive compensation bill if the incident was found to be the result of negligent maintenance practices, Mr Adams said.”

Further details emerged about the damage from the explosion.  Apparently at least three of Apache Energy’s online pipelines were on fire.  Apache could not say how long the shut down of the plant would continue for as the site needs to be further investigated.

Incident scene 5 June 2008

 

 

Two avoidable electrical fatalities

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In February 2000, McDonald’s Australia Limited was fined $120,000 in the Industrial Relations Commission in Sydney and the lessor of the Wollongong restaurant, McDonald’s Properties (Australia) Pty. Ltd, was fined $150,000. Lyndhurst Trading Co Pty. Ltd, leased the restaurant and owned and operated the clamshell grills which electrocuted 19-year old, and was fined $40,000. 

According to a report by Jennie Mansfield, senior associate with Blake Dawson Waldron in October 2000

Michael Johnston was a 19 year old employee of Lyndhurst Pty Limited (the employer), a franchisee operating a McDonald’s restaurant in Wollongong on the South Coast of New South Wales. Johnston … was fatally electrocuted while cleaning behind a clamshell grill – standard equipment in McDonald’s restaurants.

Since installation, the grill had been pulled away from the wall every night for cleaning, and over time the cable attaching it to the power outlet contractors and fast food had become abraded. There was no accessible isolation switch in place and Johnston was electrocuted when he touched the exposed inner core of the cable while the power was still connected.

I was reminded of Michael Johnston’s death when I was told of a successful prosecution in New South Wales on 2 June 2008.

A Salamander Bay resort hotel has been fined $150,000 and its three directors $12,000 each following the electrocution of a 13-year-old boy at the hotel’s pool in December 2002.

The local boy and a friend were playing in the Salamander Shores Hotel pool without the permission of the staff when a tennis ball was thrown outside the pool fence.

The 13-year-old received an electric shock when climbing back over the pool fence to retrieve the ball, and died later of his injuries.

A WorkCover investigation concluded that the boy had stood on a corroded section of pipe carrying electrical wiring, which collapsed and cut through the insulation. 

Both situations involve a lack of adequate maintenance and equipment checking. Two deaths because of the invisible, but foreseeable, hazard of electricity and inadequate management.

Michael Johnstone had been a McDonald’s employee for 2 weeks. The 13-year-old was simply playing with a mate.

New York Crane Safety Podcast

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On 3 June 2008, Brian Lehrer of radio station WNYC conducted a discussion on the issues of occupational health safety as it relates to New York City’s second crane collapse in a couple of months and a sharp rise in construction deaths so far in 2008.

The speakers are very critical of the Federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the resources provided to it by the Federal Government.  Speakers also raise the issues of the rate of construction, the skill levels of inspectors, shortage of building equipment, union membership, in passing, the legal status of migrant workers, and the assessment criteria of inspectors on construction sites.

The resource levels and strategic planning matters raised in this discussion echo many of the debates that are occuring in Europe and Australia.

The podcast is available for download by clicking HERE

Public Servant Workload – Part 2

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In today’s Age newspaper Dr Mirko Bagaric takes the Australian Prime Minister to task on the matter of hypocrisy and how his actions now are beginning to reveal his character.  However Bagaric, makes some comments about public servant workloads that are relevant.

“Rudd has an important project. It is to run the country in a manner that best provides an opportunity for each of us to flourish. And he is passionate about his project. Last week he boasted that frankly, he does believe in “burning the midnight oil”. And good on him. That’s his choice.

But it is not his choice to expect others to share his fanaticism. Stung by leaks relating to the FuelWatch scheme and responding to complaints of overwork by public servants, he said: “I’ve got news for the public service — there’ll be more. The work ethic of this Government will not decrease, it will increase.”

Almost universally regarded as being overpaid, lazy and inefficient, public servants evoke no public sympathy.

Yet, they too have interests. They are public servants, not public slaves. Many of them have families. Many of them have other priorities.

Rudd has spectacularly failed the exploitation test.”

Cultural change is most effective when it is introduced from the top level of management.  The Prime Minister is displaying his own work ethic but, as Bagaric, states it is unfair to impose this on others. 

Pipeline Explosion in Western Australia

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Western Australia’s gas supply has been disrupted due to an explosion at the Apache Energy off Dampier (shown below) on 3 June 2008.  Thirty per cent of the gas supply for that state is out of action.

There were no injuries and personnel were evacuated safely. The explosion site is pictured below.

This explosion presents important energy supply questions for the Western Australian government but, in the context of this blog, there are several paths to follow.  One will be to watch how Apache Energy handles the disaster management and business continuity.  The government will, undoubtedly, begin an inquiry and it will be interesting to note the assessment team structure and reporting lines. 

Another perspective will be to watch all of this evolve in comparison with the Esso Longford explosion in Victoria in 1998 which took out domestic and industrial gas supplies for almost two weeks. This incident lead to a Royal Commission. Compare and contrast.