A blitz on industrial sites in the West Footscray area in the wake of last week’s fiery inferno has identified almost 70 dangerous goods breaches.
The WorkSafe and EPA blitz on 78 sites, sparked by community fears following last week’s fire at a near Somerville Road in Tottenham, identified 68 contraventions relating to the handling and storage of dangerous goods.
The huge blaze caused thick, black, toxic smoke to billow across the western suburbs on Thursday, and was described by authorities as one of the biggest infernos the city has seen in decades.
The fire provoked anger among residents about potential health effects and a commitment from the state government to review authorities’ response to the incident.
WorkSafe inspectors have so far issued notices to about 40 per cent of inspected sites for a range of breaches.
Businesses have so far been slapped with 68 notices for failures including a lack of fire protection reports, incompatible storage, poorly maintained dangerous goods manifests and inadequate placarding or labelling.
WorkSafe regional operations manager Ian Matthews said while many sites were compliant, sites with poor storage practices for dangerous good have attracted multiple notices.
“So far, most of the sites we have visited have tended to have smaller amounts of chemicals on site, and the issues have been around the storage and handling of those, rather than the quantities they are storing,” he said.
“The results are disappointing. Any dangerous goods stored or handled incorrectly pose a serious risk to workers and the general public.”
Mr Matthews said the priority in the blitz is the safety of workers and surrounding residents.
The EPA joined WorkSafe on the blitz to ensure potentially dangerous chemicals were being stored correctly.
Resource recovery audit taskforce manager Danny Childs said the EPA would continue to hold polluters to account.
“With such a high density of heavy industries in the west, EPA will look for more ways to increase the local community’s protection from environmental harms from risks and hazards,” he said.
“EPA’s focus was around ensuring appropriate bunding is in place around chemicals, fuels and other hazardous liquids; and ensuring appropriate stormwater controls were in place as well as keeping an eye out for sites that receive or store combustible recyclable waste material.”
Inspectors will continue their blitz on sites in the area for at least another week.
The cause of the massive fire is yet to be determined, Arson and Explosive Squad investigators believing it may still be some time before they are able to adequately access the property and undertake all the required forensic work.
Detectives are seeking any CCTV, dashcam footage, or mobile phone video in the lead up to or early stages of the blaze.
Maribyrnong Council is hosting a community meeting about the fire, from 6.30pm Thursday, September 6, at the Footscray Town Hall.