International company fined $200k after worker dies on shift
A WACOL dry ice and gas company was fined $200,000 after admitting fault in the death of a 60-year-old worker.
Air Liquide pleaded guilty in Richlands Magistrates Court on November 19 to a breach under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, regarding a failure to comply with its duty.
The prosecution by the Office of the Work Health and Safety followed an incident on May 14, 2018 at the Progress Rd, Wacol workplace.
The court heard a worker was manually discharging carbon dioxide from a 100-tonne tank when an unsecured hose whipped upwards and struck him on the head. He sustained significant injuries, and later died in hospital.
Manual venting wasn't a task the tank was designed for or a routine job done by workers.
As a result, workers developed their own measures to vent pressure in the tank.
On the day of the incident, an experienced worker opened valves on the tank to allow carbon dioxide to flow through unsecured flexible hoses to reduce pressure.
The 60-year-old was an experienced worker familiar with the large tank and the dangers associated with venting pressurised carbon dioxide through unsecured hoses.
However, he had unclipped the hoses from a nearby bollard and placed them on the ground to vent the carbon dioxide.
Post-incident, the defendant made changes such as implementing a work procedure for manually venting vessels. It also spent approximately $100,000 on inspecting similar tanks and making modifications to them.
In sentencing, Magistrate Aaron Simpson noted the task of manually venting this vessel was not routine or part of the company's usual business, there was no risk assessment conducted although the issue had been discussed at higher levels within the company, no short-term solution was in place to manage the problem and the defendant was aware workers were using ad hoc methods to deal with it.
Mr Simpson took into consideration the defendant's early guilty plea and that it is a sophisticated corporation and good corporate citizen which surprisingly left workers to adopt ad hoc work processes and that Air Liquide had no history of offences against the Queensland Workplace Health and Safety Act and had fully co-operated with the WHS Queensland investigation.
Mr Simpson also noted the company's post-incident behaviour which, while not a fix for what happened, shows it took this breach seriously and should be reflected in a reduction in penalty, the cost involved in remedying the situation and the remorse shown by the company's senior management.
Mr Simpson fined the defendant $200,000 plus professional costs of almost $1,600.
He said the penalty served as a punishment for the defendant corporation which breached the Act and sent a message to others.