Workers’ foot cooked with caustic soda

A Gladstone aluminium worker who ended up with burned skin from a caustic soda spill is suing his employer for negligence.

Paul Kennedy is seeking damages from Queensland Alumina Limited after he was injured in January 2012 in a three-day civil trial, which began yesterday, according to The Morning Bulletin.

 Kennedy appeared in the witness box wearing the only footwear he can now wear could – thongs – because of his extensive surgery and the multiple skin grafts to his badly burned left heel and ankle.

The court heard Kennedy came in contact with the caustic soda solution, used to dissolve aluminium-bearing minerals in bauxite, when his manager instructed him to replace a part in a pipe.

His barrister said  Kennedy was not trained in the task at the time and that he had never performed the task previously.

The court also heard 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.

The blockage prevented the majority of the caustic soda from being released and when Kennedy undid three or four bolts, the caustic soda solution sprayed him "with force" and “melted” his boot.

While Kennedy returned to his normal workload in August this year, he had to wear specially fabricated boots.

The court case is continuing.

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