Meat processor fined for ammonia leak

A leading Australian meat processor has been fined AUS$84,000 after an ammonia leak from its refrigeration system harmed two employees.

The Land and Environment Court in NSW convicted Steggles Foods Mt Ku-ring-gai Pty Ltd for the incident which occurred in December 2015.

Two workers were exposed to the escaping ammonia, with one of the workers being taken to hospital for further assessment and treatment.

NSW Fire and Rescue officers using personal protective equipment entered the refrigeration compressor room and took two attempts to stop the leak. The incident occurred because a nut used to secure a bolt on a flange joint was missing, and a gasket used to secure that flange joint on a discharge pipe failed.

Each of these mechanical faults were found to have arisen from failures on behalf of Steggles to maintain the equipment in a proper and efficient manner – a requirement of Steggles’ environment protection licence. 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.

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.