A Hamilton District Court Judge has ruled that the company that installed gas-detection equipment at the Icepak Coolstore, Tamahere, that exploded in April 2008, didn’t deliberately choose and install an inferior product.
However, the court heard today that the two devices on offer to it, were in fact both unsuitable for hazardous areas, Radio NZ reported.
The Tamahere coolstore exploded in flames after firemen arrived at the site in response to a smoke alarm going off on April 5, 2008.
One fireman, Derek Lovell, was killed and seven seriously injured in the explosion.
Two companies, Mobile Refrigeration Specialists and Icepak, the plant’s owner, have pleaded guilty to charges brought by the Department of Labour under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.
A director of Icepak, Wayne Grattan faces the same charge and has also pleaded guilty.
In court today, Mobile Refrigeration was disputing one piece of the Labour Department’s evidence against it, that it had been offered suitable gas detection equipment to install at the plant, but chose not to purchase it, in favour of a cheaper, less reliable device.
Judge Robert Spear said the evidence didn’t back the Labour Department’s claim.
The court heard that Mobile Refrigeration Specialists conceded that the detection system installed in the plant was both inappropiate and didn’t meet the standards required.
The two companies and Mr Grattan will be sentenced in the Hamilton District Court on December 14.
NZPA reported that the managing director of Auckland-based Associated Process Controls (APC), David Catt, told the court his company sold gas detection sensors to Mobile Refrigeration Specialists, initially in 2004. Several more sensors were sold to the company in 2007.
Mr Catt said Warren Cook of Mobile Refrigeration told him the sensors were to be installed in a non-hazardous area to detect leaking of flammable gas.
An initial quote provided to Mr Cook for gas detection sensors was rejected in favour of lesser quality and cheaper ones.
Mr Cook was “very secretive about what they were doing and told me it was one-off stuff they were doing”, Mr Catt told the court.
Under cross-examination by Marc Corlett representing Mobile Refrigeration, Mr Catt admitted that in hindsight neither gas detection sensor quoted to Mr Cook was suitable for the coolstore.
Mr Corlett questioned Mr Catt on the specification sheets provided with each sensor to his client.
He asked if the reasons Mr Catt gave for both gas detection sensors being unsuitable were outlined on the specification sheets. Mr Catt said they weren’t.
Mr Corlett said the issue of whether responsibility lay with APC or Mobile Refrigeration over the choice of detectors was not the disputed fact before the court.
He said his client disputed the assertion that he had chosen the lesser quality gas sensor detector because of the cost.
Judge Spear said the issue was whether the assertion that was in dispute had been “established beyond reasonable doubt on the evidence such that it might play on the criminality assessment that will be required at the sentencing hearing”.
“The evidence does not bring me to that point. Indeed the evidence does not establish at all that Mobile Refrigeration Services preferred an unsuitable gas detection device over a suitable gas detection device, for whatever reason.”