11 charges for ‘acid spills’ at refinery

Geelong’s oil refinery operator faces 11 charges after allegedly exposing two workers to hydrofluoric acid leaks last year.
WorkSafe charged Viva Energy Australia with 11 contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act following alleged incidents at its Corio refinery on 5 November and 4 December 2017.
The charges involved nine contraventions including a failure to provide safe systems of work and adequate training, WorkSafe alleged.
The company also failed to notify WorkSafe after becoming aware of a “serious incident”, and failed to provide written record within 48 hours, the authority alleged.
WorkSafe filed the charges in Geelong Magistrates’ Court this week.
The charges followed Viva recently paying more than $31,000 in fines and costs for potentially-hazardous releases of fluoride.
The company pleaded guilty in Geelong Magistrates’ Court last week to four charges of breaching its Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) licence.
The company was licensed to emit up to 140 grams per minute of fluoride, EPA’s Carolyn Francis explained.
“But the routine monitoring required under its EPA licence showed the refinery exceeded that limit four times between December 2015 and March 2016,” she said.
“On two occasions, it reached as high as 300 grams per minute, more than twice the limit under the refinery’s EPA licence.”
Fluoride can cause impacts to plants, animals and people in sufficient concentrations.
Refinery general manager Thys Heyns said Viva Energy placed “the highest priority on safety for our workers and the community”.
The company had a range of safety processes, systems and procedures, he said.
“We’re always disappointed with any incident on site. Our aim with safety is always ‘Goal Zero’.”

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