Industrial manslaughter charges laid against QLD company

Charges have been laid against Oil Tech International and company director Michael Reid in relation to the death of worker Matthew O’Brien at a waste recycling facility in Yatala on 5 November 2015.

Under Queensland industrial relations law, the offence is a Category 1 involving reckless conduct, meaning Reid faces a maximum five years’ imprisonment or a fine of $600,000, while the company could be liable for fines of up to $3m.

It is alleged O’Brien was using a heat gun close to a tanker containing water and unleaded petrol, which was being unloaded when he was engulfed by flames and died.

The business was involved in the waste recycling sector and often took receipt of waste oil and flammables. The evidence obtained during the investigation raised serious questions as to the systems employed for testing and detection of substances on receipt. Questions were also raised around the lack of any hot work permit system, adequacy of worker training and isolation of hot work from flammables.

On the day of the incident, O’Brien was using a heat gun to fix a hose to a pump while standing in a containment area, when a load of water contaminated unleaded petrol was being gravity fed into the containment area.

The lack of any real system to prevent ignition sources coming in contact with flammables and prohibiting hot work while unloading flammables into a containment area exposed him to such serious risks that an allegation of reckless conduct was made.

The court was told that had relatively simple controls been used by the company and available for workers, O’Brien’s death would have been avoided.

Director of the company, Michael Reid has been charged with not exercising due diligence in ensuring Oil Tech International complied with its duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. It is alleged by the court, that he did not gain a proper understanding of the company’s operations and the hazards arising, and is also accused of not ensuring the company used and implemented appropriate resources and processes to minimise risk.

The court was told that reasonable effort was not made so the company could develop or put in place controls to avoid ignition sources being close to flammables.

Image sourced from Flickr cc: Jar

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