Chemical spill injures five at Western Australian alumina refinery

Article by Amanda Jasi

TWO PEOPLE were hospitalised, and three others also injured, after a spill of caustic solution at aluminium major Alcoa’s Pinjarra refinery in Western Australia.

Western Australian news organisation PerthNow says that emergency services arrived at the alumina refinery at 15:30 local time on 14 November, after reports that several workers had suffered chemical burns. The solution involved was a caustic used to dissolve alumina from bauxite ore, according to online newspaper WAtoday.

While two workers were taken to a local hospital for treatment, the three others were treated by onsite medical staff and declared fit to return to work. An Alcoa spokesman said that one of those hospitalised was released the following day, with the other due for release.

The spokesperson said the company’s focus and thoughts were with the injured workers and their families. “Any type of injury at work is unacceptable,” he said, adding that Alcoa is working with authorities to investigate and understand the causes and contributing factors with the aim of preventing future incidents.

The cause of the incident is unknown, with WAtoday saying it occurred in an area where planned maintenance was being carried out and was isolated there.

This is not the first chemical incident at Alcoa’s Pinjarra alumina refinery. In December 2021, a local radio station reported that three workers at the site had suffered chemical burns due to a valve failure. Meanwhile, another caustic spill incident in 2014 saw a man airlifted to hospital.

The refinery is one of the largest of its kind in the world, producing 4.7m t/y of product. The site was commissioned in 1972, and employs around 1,160 direct employees and 330 contractors.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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