Company fined $200,000 over fatal blast

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Photo: Activedia, Pixabay

An environmental services company has been fined $200,000 following the death of a worker in 2015.

The 31-year-old man died on 27 October 2015, after an explosion in a gas kiln in Gladstone.

The company was fined by the Gladstone Magistrates Court Friday after pleading guilty to breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The court heard that the company was running behind in contract requirements following multiple issues with the electric kiln and had to seek an extension to provide the first batch of blocks. Subsequently, Mr. Chapelhow was instructed to switch over from electric to gas firing and was provided with instructions on temperature and timing for the new process. The court heard that no professionals were engaged to convert the electric kiln to gas.

Two weeks after Mr. Chapelhow was instructed to convert the kiln to gas, he was killed. Investigations confirmed the kiln was running on gas when the flame extinguished, gas continued to build up for an unknown amount of time before Mr. Chapelhow attempted to relight it, resulting in an explosion.

The company was prosecuted for failing to engage competent persons to design and install a gas system in the kiln, failing to engage competent persons to ensure operation and maintenance of the kiln were safe and failing to provide adequate training to workers operating the kiln by gas.

Magistrate Melanie Ho said the incident was a serious breach of the Act with catastrophic consequences, but took into consideration the company’s early guilty plea, its co-operation with WHSQ and a good safety record prior to the incident

The Magistrate also took into consideration the company’s  significant contributions to the Gladstone community and the safety improvements made, which included stopping the ‘drying out’ process which on this occasion cost a young father his life.

In her summary, Magistrate Ho said Mr. Chapelhow was at no fault at all during the failed process but had suffered the most catastrophic of consequences leaving behind a young family.

The defendant pleaded guilty to these failures which breached section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. No conviction was recorded.

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