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Company fined $600,000 following apprentice’s death

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Date: 
Tuesday, 28 June, 2022 - 12:00
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Victoria

A road tanker manufacturer in Victoria has been convicted and fined $600,000 following the asphyxiation death of an apprentice while working inside a tanker at its Cranbourne West factory in 2018.

Marshall Lethlean Industries was recently sentenced in the Melbourne Country Court after earlier pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risk to health.

The court heard that in October 2018, the apprentice, who had been working at the factory less than two weeks, was asked to undertake work inside a tanker.

The previous day another worker had left a welder inside the tanker along with a wire feeder, which was in a state of disrepair and leaked argon gas overnight, reducing oxygen.

The apprentice died of asphyxiation after entering the confined space of the tanker to conduct the work.

The court found it was reasonably practicable for the company to have provided and maintained a system of work that required a qualified welding inspector to routinely inspect and maintain equipment; require workers to store the welder and wire feeder outside the tanker when not in use; and require workers to turn off the argon gas main at the end of use.

Acting WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety, Adam Watson, said the incident was an absolute tragedy that could have been avoided.

“The dangers of working in confined spaces are well known and there is no excuse for employers who fail to control the risks,” Watson said.

“This incident highlights just how important simple measures such as maintenance and storage procedures are to keeping workers and workplaces safe. Sadly a failure to do so, in this case, cost a young man his life.”