14 January 2019

Hume ‘yellow bin’ recycling plant shut down for being a highly dangerous ‘fire trap’

| Glynis Quinlan
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Work safety

WorkSafe ACT concerns include blocked exits and a lack of firefighting equipment.

The Hume facility which recycles material from Canberra’s ‘yellow bins’ has been closed down until at least the end of the week with the ACT work safety commissioner describing it as a ‘fire trap’ which left workers without a way of escape.

Blocked exits, missing handrails, and a lack of firefighting equipment are among the list of safety issues which led to Re.Group’s material recovery facility being shut down until matters are fixed.

“All of the workers in the building were at high risk if there was a fire,” ACT work safety commissioner Greg Jones told Region Media.

“It was highly dangerous, particularly from a fire safety perspective.

“Many of the exits were blocked and so workers wouldn’t have had a way of escape.”

Mr Jones said that WorkSafe ACT inspectors went to the site on Thursday night (January 10) after receiving a complaint about significant issues at the plant.

They issued a prohibition notice on the site and have been at the plant every day since while remediation work is taking place.

Mr Jones said the safety issues included:

  • blocked fire or emergency exits
  • a lack of firefighting equipment including extinguishers and hoses
  • operational safety issues with machinery including a lack of protective guards underneath the conveyor belt
  • missing, broken or damaged handrails
  • concerns around the storage of flammable materials such as fuel and gas
  • some electrical safety issues
  • a lack of planning around the interaction of vehicle movement and pedestrians.

Mr Jones said that between 15 and 20 people work at the plant at any one time and all of the workers would have been at risk if there was a fire.

“The company has been fully co-operative and is working effectively with us to remediate all these issues,” Mr Jones said.

“We think it is going to take the best part of this week.”

He added that ACT Fire & Rescue had been consulted over the issues and confirmed WorkSafe ACT’s initial concerns. Their advice will also be sought before re-opening the site.

Re.Group operates under contract to the ACT Government to process kerbside recyclables from the city’s ‘yellow bins’.

A spokesperson for Transport Canberra & City Services said that a temporary holding site to store recycled materials has been established at the Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre to minimise interruptions to ACT household and commercial recycling collection services.

“These arrangements will be monitored closely over the coming days,” the spokesperson said.

“While bin collections were delayed by 24 hours in parts of Franklin and the suburb of Gungahlin on Friday, yellow bin collections are continuing as normal and the Container Deposit Scheme remains unaffected.”

The spokesperson said that all public waste and recycling facilities remain open.

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Capital Retro10:10 pm 14 Jan 19

“……..temporary holding site to store recycled materials has been established at the Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre…..”

This is likely to be stored there permanently (there is no space at the recycling plant) and it will eventually be burnt in the new incinerator which the government is due to make an announcement about any day.

The market for recycled consumer containers and paper has collapsed and landfill isn’t an option so burning is the only way to go. Unfortunately, the MLRMC isn’t the right spot for it.

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