24 Nov 2009

Coolstore fire: inferior equipment 'not deliberately installed'

4:00 pm on 24 November 2009

A Hamilton District Court judge has ruled that the company that installed gas-detection equipment that exploded at a Waikato coolstore didn't deliberately choose and install an inferior product.

The court heard, however, that the two devices on offer to the company were both unsuitable for hazardous areas.

The coolstore, at Tamahere near Hamilton, exploded in flames on 5 April 2008 after firefighters arrived at the site in response to a smoke alarm going off.

One fireman was killed and seven seriously injured.

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, has pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Judge rejects department's claim

In court on Tuesday, Mobile Refrigeration Specialists disputed one piece of the Labour Department's evidence against it, namely, that it had been offered suitable gas-detection equipment to install at the plant but chose not to purchase it, preferring a cheaper, less reliable device.

Judge Robert Spear said the evidence didn't back the department's claim.

The court was told that Mobile Refrigeration Specialists has conceded that the detection system installed in the plant was both inappropriate and didn't meet the standards required.

The two companies and Mr Grattan will be sentenced in the Hamilton District Court on 14 December.