An uncapped gas line caused an explosion that seriously burned four young men who were cooking at a pop-up commercial kitchen in Fyshwick, an inquest has found.
Coronial findings published this week show that the October 2018 blast left each of the victims with psychological scars, in addition to physical injuries.
All four suffered burns to multiple parts of their bodies, including their faces, with one of them spending six weeks in hospital.
Coroner Glenn Theakston conducted an inquest into the episode, following a "comprehensive" investigation by WorkSafe ACT.
He said in his findings that the quartet had hired the kitchen, which was inside a shipping container at Canberra City Farm on Dairy Road.
During the evening, they could smell gas in the kitchen, including when the stove was first ignited.
"They appear to have assumed that this was in some way due to the burner ignition process," Mr Theakston said.
All four men were in the kitchen when, at about 11pm, there was what Mr Theakston described as "a sudden and brief explosion".
A licensed gasfitter inspected the kitchen the next day, finding that both gas valves on the wall were in the "on" position.
One of these supplied a combined hob and oven. The other, which had been installed for a hotplate, had been left uncapped despite that appliance's subsequent removal.
"The gasfitter opined that gas would have been free to flow into the kitchen," Mr Theakston said in his findings.
"The gas, being LPG and heavier than air, would have pooled at the lowest level in the kitchen, with the upper part of that cloud rising higher until it eventually reached an ignition source, which then triggered its ignition and the resultant explosion.
"It is unclear from the evidence who moved the uncapped valve ... to the open position."
The coroner said gas safety regulations in the ACT required any disconnected line to be capped.
In this case, Mr Theakston said, it was unclear who had removed the hotplate and created the hazard.
But he wrote that the kitchen's owner, Homegrown Me Pty Ltd, "had appropriately engaged a gas appliance worker on two occasions in relation to the adjacent oven and [did] not appear to have received any advice or warning about the uncapped gas line".
"The appliance gas workers attended to the oven repair as requested but did not inspect the adjacent gas fittings," he said.
Mr Theakston said the initial gas works in the kitchen had been certified as compliant, but that had happened prior to the removal of the hotplate and the current regulatory scheme did not include periodic inspections.
The coroner recommended that the Construction Occupations Registrar consider that, "in the absence of such an arrangement", information be added to compliance plates.
"That information could include a statement that it is dangerous for an unlicensed person to modify the gas piping system or install or disconnect a gas appliance to the gas piping system, and that it may from time to time be appropriate to have the gas piping system and gas appliances inspected by a licensed gasfitter and gas appliance worker," he said.
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