A Melbourne manufacturer has been hit with a $600,000 fine for the death of a young trainee, who suffocated in a tanker just 10 days after starting an apprenticeship.
- A WorkSafe inspector had been on site less than an hour before Mr. Wu’s death.
- The court heard how the young man’s family has struggled with his tragic death.
- Marshall Lethlean Industries was fined $600,000 for the incident.
Cranbourne West-based Marshall Lethlean Industries was convicted and fined for the death of apprentice welder Dillon Wu nearly four years ago.
Wu, 20, was cleaning the tanker truck when it collapsed after breathing argon gas. Gas was leaking into the tanker truck because a faulty and out-of-service welder and wire feeder had been left there overnight.
He died on the factory floor about 40 minutes after a WorkSafe inspector, who was there on another matter, left.
At the time, the company, which was in the midst of a site move, was considering new security proposals after an inspection.
He pleaded guilty to a single count of failing to ensure a safe workplace.
Judge Douglas Trapnell denounced the company today.
“There were three separate failures that contributed to the risk that occurred.
“If any of these safety procedures had been observed, namely inspection and servicing of the welder, removal of the welder from the tank overnight, or shutting off the flow of argon gas at the end of the shift, the incident would not have occurred. “.
Profound effect on family detailed in court
In October 2018, Mr. Wu went to work and was assigned the job of cleaning the tanker truck, which is usually a job for first-year trainees.
Court documents revealed that the job was “hand-assigned” to him by another trainee, who failed to turn off the argon gas supply after finishing the night before.
Witnesses later told investigators the work is usually done without supervision, a spotter or gas detectors.
At 8:55 am, another trainee kicked the tanker truck Mr. Wu was working on to let him know it was time for a smoke.
He did not see Mr. Wu, which did not raise any alarm because he was a “quiet child.”
The County Court heard that the incident likely occurred about half an hour later, when another worker noticed that the trainee had “sunk” into the tank.
“He appeared blue on the lips and pale on the face,” Judge Trapnell said.
Two workers attempted to remove Mr. Wu from the tank before strapping him into a harness and pulling him out.
Desperate colleagues tried to perform CPR on the young man but he died on the spot.
Judge Trapnell said Wu’s death deeply affected his family, including his father and mother.
“The image of his son often appears in his head, which leads him to make mistakes at work,” he said.
“His wife stopped working due to the death of their son.
“His son’s girlfriend was pregnant at the time of his death and has since had an abortion.”
Matt Ryan, who worked with Mr. Wu at Marshall Lethlean, said his and other employees’ safety concerns about the company went unheeded.
“Many of their employees on the floor advised the company that there were significant security violations at the location prior to the incident,” he said.
“It’s like banging your head against a brick wall trying to tell them in the end: Your calls for help and to fix things weren’t reviewed or noticed.
Ryan left the company several weeks after the incident.
“I tried to go back, but I just couldn’t get through those doors again after what happened,” he said.
He urged companies to listen to workers and not cut corners on safety.
“At the end of the day, we all deserve to go home to our families,” he said.
Defective welding equipment detected later
WorksSafe investigators later discovered that a gas valve installed on the wire feeder had stuck in the open position, allowing argon welding gas to flow through the torch to atmosphere.
Judge Trapnell said that safety must be “paramount” in all workplaces.
“I find that the company failed to take steps to protect against the risk of injury or death associated with a gas leak from defective welding equipment,” he said.
“The steps available are accessible, relatively low cost, and in the case of turning off a gas pipeline, free of charge.
“In my opinion, such conduct amounts to a blatant disregard by the company for the safety of Mr. Wu and others in his workplace.”
But Judge Trapnell said he accepted that the company did not know the welder or wire feeder was defective.
“I accept the company … deeply regrets the loss of Mr. Wu’s life and is sorry,” he said.
The County Court heard that the company had made “significant changes”, including increased staff training, supervision and the hiring of outside security consultants.
Judge Trapnell expressed his condolences to Mr. Wu’s loved ones.
“I want to say on behalf of the Victorian community how tragic the loss of your son and partner is under these circumstances,” he said.
“I’m hoping that as a result of this procedure… there can be some closure.”
Aware , updated