Australian Power Station Fire Demonstrates Importance of Taking Safety Seriously

Hazlewood Power Station FireA recent inquiry into the fire at the Hazelwood Power Station in Australia has highlighted the obligations that business owners and plant managers have to ensure adequate safety systems and procedures are in place at their facilities to protect their businesses, their staff and the surrounding environment.

The fire at the coal mine in Australia burned for 45 days and shrouded the town of Morwell in toxic smoke and ash.

The state government told an inquiry into the blaze that owner GDF Suez was obliged to manage risk at the Hazelwood coalmine.

Josh Wilson QC, representing the Victorian government solicitor’s office, said GDF Suez had the same risk obligations as any other business.

"Suez does not operate in a regulatory environment where it is only obliged to do – and only does – what others ask or tell it to do," Wilson also said. 

GDF Suez rejected claims that a report into a 2008 fire at the mine might have produced recommendations that would have stopped or reduced the impact of the latest fire. Rachel Doyle, SC, representing GDF Suez, said there were no legal obligations to implement the recommendations of consultants' reports, and the 2008 fire was completely different to the 2014 fire. "There is no requirement to implement every recommendation by an external consultant," Doyle told the inquiry.

"Duty holders cannot avoid their responsibilities by saying it is someone else's responsibility to tell them when they are doing things wrong."

Doyle also said the fire was the result of unforeseeable events, as two bushfires threatening the mine at the same time as the power and backup power went out was unexpected.

"It is this perfect storm of events which we submit was not readily foreseeable,"  

Whatever the rights and wrongs of these fires, it underlines the importance of effective fire protection in environments which are potentially just a moment away from catastrophe due to the complicated processes that take place and the variety of combustible materials on site.  The power and energy sectors are very much in this category.

Promat DURASTEEL® provides fire and blast solutions to the energy, power generation/distribution sectors including: Power stations and electrical sub-stations, oil rigs and offshore platforms. Find out more how Promat can help here.

Thanks to Latrobe Valley Express for image

Back to overview