Four charges laid over Avgas drum explosion that severely burnt young ringer

NT WorkSafe has charged a cattle mustering contractor with four breaches of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011, over an incident where an 18-year-old worker was severely burnt when a 44-gallon Avgas drum exploded.

On 13 April 2019, Aaron Peter Kerr (trading as Kerr Contracting & Co) and his workers were mustering at a camp on Montejinni Station, approximately 320 kilometres south west of Katherine.

NT WorkSafe will allege Mr Kerr directed a worker to cut the lid off a 44-gallon Avgas drum for use as a rubbish bin, and directed another worker to assist, while Mr Kerr and the other workers went to muster cattle.

The two workers attempted to wash and clean the drum, before an 18 year-old-worker used an angle grinder to cut the drum causing an explosion. As a result, the young worker received burns to the hands, arms, face and nasal passages.

NT WorkSafe will also allege that despite a first aider at Montejinni Station assessing the injuries as first and second degree burns, Mr Kerr exposed the injured worker to further serious injury, illness or death by not contacting emergency services or arranging transport for the worker to ensure the worker had access to appropriate medical treatment and advice.

Appropriate medical treatment was not available at the camp, or at Montejinni Station, despite the injured worker complaining of persistent pain and discomfort, and a worsening of his condition. It would be a further six days before the injured worker was transported from the camp at Montejinni Station and admitted into Katherine Hospital.

Mr Kerr faces two charges of reckless conduct under section 31 of the Act for failing to ensure the health and safety of his workers as per section 19(1)(a) of the Act.

Charges under section 31, also known as a Category 1 offence, are the most serious charge available for a serious workplace incident that does not involve a death.

Mr Kerr also faces one charge under section 38(1) of the Act for failing to notify NT WorkSafe of a notifiable incident until seven days after the incident, and an additional charge under section 39(1) of the Act for failing to preserve the site of an incident.

If found guilty of all four charges, Mr Kerr faces a combined maximum penalty of $1,220,000 or five years imprisonment or both.

The matter is listed for mention in the Darwin Local Court on 9 June 2021.

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ntworksafe@nt.gov.au