Firm knocked for safety attitude


WorkSafe has criticised a trucking giant for its lack of health and safety concern after a Queenstown chemical incident.

Mainfreight’s driver pumped the wrong chemical into a bin at Frankton’s Southern Lakes Laundries (SLL) in March, causing a .

Glenda Drive was cordoned for hours as fire crews tried to establish what chemicals had been released in the air.

Documents obtained by Mountain Scene after an Official Information Act request blame the incident mainly on driver error.

A ‘detailed file report’ penned by WorkSafe inspector Alice Hansen on March 30 said Mainfreight’s two-page report reflected a “lack of concern and culture regarding H&S which is a concern”.

In January, the driver was trained by Ecolab to deliver chemicals.

However, according to a report signed by SLL owner Rob Young, part of a voluntary review, the company was concerned Mainfreight Cromwell “have not been taking the task of pumping over bulk chemicals seriously enough”.

Mainfreight’s Cromwell office was told by its head office not to comment to Mountain Scene.

But in the SLL report, Cromwell Mainfreight’s owner said “their culture will change and that he had already spoken to the driver”.

WorkSafe, which chose not to investigate , didn’t respond by publication deadline.

According to the reports, Queenstown fire services wrongly thought the chemical reaction was a highly toxic chlorine gas - which meant a long response by emergency teams.

SLL’s report to WorkSafe said about 10 litres of ‘Oxy-Brite’ was mistakenly pumped into SLL’s destainer tank on March 10, containing about 220-250 litres, causing an “immediate and obvious reaction”.

The report describes “bubbling in the tank for about three to four seconds with pressure from a build-up of vapour causing the tank lid to blow off”.

“The reaction calmed down after the lid was blown off and then gas/liquid vapour could be seen bubbling out of the tank.”

The panicked driver, whose name is redacted, “immediately realises he has done something wrong”, the SLL report says, adding that he utters something like “I stuffed up”.

The gas produced would have been oxygen, the report said. WorkSafe’s summary says Ecolab was making it easier to identify equipment, while SLL reviewed its chemical management and will be more proactive with local fire volunteers.

SLL was approached for comment.