Worker missed ‘closed’ label on valve, cooked his foot

Paul Kennedy.
Paul Kennedy.

A GLADSTONE man whose skin and flesh were burned by an industrial grade chemical is suing his employer for negligence in the Rockhampton Supreme Court.

Paul Kennedy is seeking damages from Queensland Alumina Limited after he was injured in his role as an alumina producer in January 2012 in a three day civil trial which began yesterday.

Mr Kenney, 29, appeared behind the witness box wearing the only footwear he could, thongs, and gave evidence against his employer which included extensive surgery and skin grafts to his badly burned left heel and ankle.

Barrister Catherine Heyworth-Smith told the court Mr Kennedy came in contact with a caustic soda solution, used to dissolve aluminium bearing minerals in bauxite, when his manager instructed him to replace a part in an on-site pipe.

Ms Hayworth-Smith said Mr Kennedy was not trained in the task at the time, had not performed the task before and was only accompanied by a more experienced employee for a short amount of time.

The court heard Mr Kennedy used a ratchet to turn a valve on the pipe from open to closed but scale build-up on the pipe and the size of the ratchet obscured his view of the label on the valve, which was already closed.

A blockage prevented the majority of the caustic soda from being released from the open pipe when Mr Kennedy undid three or four bolts, but when he returned from smoko an hour later and removed the other bolts, the blockage cleared and sprayed the chemical on him "with force".

The caustic solution melted Mr Kennedy's boot.

A colleague told Mr Kennedy, "That's no worries, we'll let it drain, let's go to smoko," when Mr Kennedy told him some of the solution, which he assumed was a residual amount, had leaked from the pipe when he undid the initial bolts.

Mr Kennedy returned to his normal workload in August this year and had to wear specially fabricated boots.

Evidence from Mr Kennedy's ex-partner revealed he became "a different person, like he wasn't even there", following the accident.

Cross-examination of the plaintiff is continuing.

Topics:  queensland alumina limited rockhampton supreme court work injury

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