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

As a Category 1 offence involving reckless conduct, Reid faces a maximum five years’ imprisonment or a fine of $600,000, while the company could be liable for fines of up to $3 million.

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

The business carried out waste recycling, including receipt of waste oil and flammables.

The evidence obtained during investigation raised serious questions as to systems for testing and detection of substances on receipt, lack of any hot work permit system, adequacy of worker training, and isolation of hot work from flammables.

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 the worker to such serious risks that an allegation of reckless conduct is being made.

Had available and relatively simple controls been used by the company, it’s believed the worker’s death would have been avoided.

Reid, the director of the company, is 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 he did not gain a proper understanding of the company’s operations and the hazards arising. He’s also accused of not ensuring the company used and implemented appropriate resources and processes to minimise risk.

In essence, it is alleged reasonable effort was not made so the company could develop or put in place controls to avoid ignition sources being close to flammables.

After being passed by State Parliament recently, tough new industrial manslaughter laws will further protect Queensland workers on the job.

Negligent employers culpable in workplace fatalities in Queensland face severe penalties, with individuals guilty looking at 20 years imprisonment and corporate offenders liable for fines of up to $10 million.

Extracted from: Safety Institute of Australia