Hazelwood Power Corporation (HPC) has been fined $1.56 million after it was found guilty of 10 occupational health and safety offences.
The offences relate to a fire which burned at the Latrobe Valley coal mine for 45 days in early 2014, blanketing the nearby town of Morwell in smoke. Although the fire was not caused by HPC, a jury found that HPC had failed to take sufficient steps to protect employees and others by eliminating or reducing the risk of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide emitted by the fire.
HPC and three other companies responsible for operating the coal mine were also collectively fined $380,000 for breaching the Environment Protection Act by polluting the atmosphere.
Those impacted by the fire include Morwell residents, employees that worked at the coal mine and firefighters. Prolonged exposure to smoke can lead to temporary or permanent health conditions, such as:
- headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue;
- impaired vision and coordination;
- chest pain in people with coronary heart disease;
- aggravation of respiratory conditions like asthma; and
- in extreme cases, carbon monoxide poisoning.
Additionally, stress relating to the health threats the fire posed may have also impacted the psychological well-being of community members.
If a person has suffered an injury or trauma as a result of the Hazelwood fire, they may be able to claim compensation. Specifically:
- if a person was exposed to the fire in the course of their employment, and they suffered either a psychological or physical injury as a result, they may be able to bring a workers' compensation claim;
- if a person was exposed to the fire outside of their employment, and they have suffered an injury, grief or trauma as a direct result, they may be able to bring an application for compensation under the Victorian Sentencing Act.
Time limits apply to these claims, so if you or a loved one needs legal advice about your options, you should seek this as soon as possible, said Kirsty.
Redlich's Work Injury Lawyers offer a no win, no fee arrangement, providing a free initial consultation. If you would like to discuss your options, please call (03) 9321 9988.