Fatal Explosions: Ron Salter learns #She’llBeRight not good enough

Hi All,

I’ve been following the WorksafeNZ investigation and court proceedings since the fatality first happened at Salter’s Cartage on September 15th, 2015. That day, Ron Salter learnt that fatal explosions have a high cost on every level.

Ron Slater is the classic working-class kiwi bloke who turned himself into a self-made businessman. For 38 years, he had been transporting waste fuel around New Zealand and then found ways to make money out of it.

This case highlights the human side of a workplace fatality. In an article published by the NZ Herald Salter said “There were mistakes and I have to “pay the ledger” on a debt that could never be met.”

Jamey Bowring’s mum, Sarah Ferguson has said “We will forever have an empty chair at the dinner table and an unopened present under the Christmas tree.”

If you want to read all the details in depth refer to:

What Happened?

  • Jamey Lee Bowring, 24, was assisting Trevor Ackers of RaceWorks, to carry out maintenance work on tanks at Salter’s Cartage.
  •  There was no formal contract, scope of works or health safety system established between RaceWorks and Salter’s Cartage.
  •  Bowring did not report to the site office and Salter’s Cartage was not notified that he would be welding on top of the tank.
  • Bowring was working nine metres off the ground on top of tank 20, which had been labelled ‘diesel’ when it really contained a mixture of waste oil
  • Bowring suffered “multiple blunt force trauma” when the 100,000-litre fuel tank exploded. His body was thrown over 130 metres into the air and landed in a car yard across the road.
  •  A Salter’s Cartage worker was nearly impaled on a piece of the walkway Bowring had been welding. The explosion shattered windows, rocked buildings and shrapnel also destroyed eight vehicles and damaged 22 others.
  • Judge McIlraith said “the explosion was so great the tank become elliptical and moved 42 cm of its original foundations”.
  • At the time, Salter’s Cartage Limited had 23,000 litres of jet fuel22,000 litres of petrol, 86,000 litres of diesel and more than 4000kg of LPG on site. The incident could have been far worse.

What the Court Said: #She’llBeRight not good enough in a High Hazard Environment

 WorkSafe NZ prosecutor Simon Mount QC said Salter’s Cartage had “high hazards” and the ability to cause “catastrophic harm”. There was widespread non-compliance at the site regarding safety. Judge McIlraith “it was hard to find a case with a more catastrophic safety breach, and that punitive punishment for Salter was necessary”.

Home detention: 4 1/2 months


  • Ron Salter: $25,000.
  • Salter Cartage: $258,750


  • Bowring family: $110,000
  • Sarah Ferguson additional: $2,865
  • Neighboring business for damages: $15,209


Trevor Ackers’ Huntly business RaceWorks, which was also charged after the accident for not completing paper work or effectively training/inducting Bowring to do the job. Post Script: since the accident Salter’s Cartage has spent $1.5 million to repair the site and bring it to a higher level of safety compliance.

What can you do to prevent fatal explosions?

  1. All contractors need to complete some form of Safe Work Method Statement (Job Safety Analysis or Site Safety Plan) before beginning work on site.
  2. It is important that you as the PCBU check that your contract workers have the correct qualifications, experience and supervision to complete the work required.
  3. All contractors need to somehow ‘sign in’ to site and confirm the work they will be doing on the day.
  4. In High Hazard areas there needs to be a permit to work system in place and appropriate signage.
  5. If a ‘Hot Work Permit’ is being used for welding, angle grinding or using a gas axe etc. in a high hazard environment (near highly flammable substances and their fumes) you must have an active safety management system that includes such actions as flushing the tank, using a gas detector and having fire extinguishers on hand.


Make sure your work site doesn’t suffer from #She’llBeRight and remember fatal explosions can happen when there are flammable liquids with a  low flash point, flammable gases, dust and grain like substances.

Have a safe and productive week,


Print Friendly
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Leave a Reply


captcha *