No inquiry into toxic gas incident


Authorities will not investigate an incident in Queenstown on Thursday in which chemicals were mixed together by mistake, creating a potentially deadly reaction.

Queenstown police says any decision to investigate would be up to the New Zealand Fire Service, led by Worksafe New Zealand.

In a statement to the Otago Daily Times, Worksafe New Zealand say it will not be investigating because “no serious harm has occurred”.

However, it has “requested the company undertake a duty-holder review”.

Worksafe could not be contacted on Friday night to confirm which company the review applied to.

The incident occurred at Southern Lakes Laundries (SLL) in Glenda Drive, Frankton, at 7.35am on Thursday.
On Friday, SLL managing director Rob Young says he believed two chemicals had accidentally been mixed by a Mainfreight worker.

The Worksafe website says a review identified the cause of the incident and what actions needed to be taken to prevent it recurring.

The reviews are carried out by the ‘duty holder”, assisted by a specialist team.

The website says the “ideal result” was that lessons were learned and sustainable improvements made to workplace health and safety systems.

Surrounding businesses in Glenda Drive were evacuated after two chemicals were mixed and created a potentially deadly toxic reaction.

Queenstown volunteer fire brigade deputy chief fire officer Andrew Bary says a “concentrated peroxide” and a “reasonably concentrated bleach” mixed and created chlorine gas.

Mainfreight is responsible for supplying the chemicals the laundry uses. When contacted by the ODT, Mainfreight said it could not respond to media inquiries until Monday.

Young says he understands the Mainfreight staff member  poured 10 litres of a chemical into the wrong drum – which already contained 230 litres of another chemical.

“A moment’s inattention to a normally very careful process caused the result”, Young says.

SLL operations manager Sarah Taylor says the incident is the first of its kind in the 12 years the company has been operating.

The company’s 30 staff members resumed work about 4.15pm on Thursday and continued until 10pm to fill laundry orders from hotels.

One man was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure after the incident. 

An official update on his condition was not available on Friday but the ODT understands the man was discharged from hospital on Thursday afternoon.