A manufacturer in Melbourne has been fined $600,000 over the death of a young apprentice who was suffocated in a tanker just 10 days after starting a work placement.
Marshall Lethlean Industries, based in Cranbourne West, was convicted and fined almost four years ago for the murder of trainee welder Dillon Wu.
Mr Wu, 20, was cleaning the tanker when he collapsed after breathing in argon gas. The gas was leaking into the tanker because a welder and a defective and unserviced 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, had left.
The company, which was in the middle of moving sites, was considering new safety proposals after an inspection.
It pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing to ensure that a workplace is safe.
There were three separate failures that all contributed to the risk that occurred.
If one of these safety procedures, mainly the inspection and servicing of the welder, removal of the welder from the tank overnight, or turning off the argon gas flow at the end of the shift, had been observed, the incident would not have happened. In October 2018, Mr Wu went to work and was given the job of cleaning out the tanker, which is usually a job for first-year apprentices.
Court documents showed that the job was hand-balled to him by another apprentice who did not turn off the argon gas supply after he had finished the night before.
Witnesses told investigators that the job is usually done without supervision, a spotter or gas detectors.
At 8: 55 am, another apprentice kicked the tanker that Mr Wu was working in to let him know that it was time for a smoke break.
He did not see Mr Wu, which did not raise any alarm because he was a quiet kid. The incident probably happened about half an hour later when another worker noticed that the apprentice had gone down in the tank.
Judge Trapnell said he looked blue in the lips and pale in the face.
Two workers tried to lift Mr Wu out of the tank before they strapped him into a harness and moved him out.
Desperate colleagues tried to perform CPR on the young man, but he died at the scene.
Judge Trapnell said Mr Wu's death had profoundly affected his family, including his father and mother.
His son's image often appears in his head, leading him to make mistakes at work, he said.
His wife stopped working because of his son's death.
Their girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time of his death, has since had an abortion. WorksSafe investigators later found that a gas valve fitted to the wire feeder had become jammed in the open position, letting argon welding gas flow into the atmosphere through the torch.
Safety should be a priority for all workplaces, according to Judge Trapnell.
He said that the company took no steps to protect against the risk of injury or death associated with a gas leak from defective welding equipment.
The steps available are relatively low cost, and there is no cost at all in the case of turning off a gas main.
I agree with you that the conduct amounts to apparent disregard by the company for the safety of Mr Wu and others at its workplace. Judge Trapnell said he accepted that the company did not know that the welder or wire feeder was faulty.
He said that the company deeply regrets the loss of Mr Wu's life and is remorseful.
The county court heard that the company had made a lot of changes, including more staff training, supervision and the hiring of external safety consultants.
Judge Trapnell extended his condolences to Mr Wu's loved ones.
He said on behalf of the Victorian community how tragic the loss of your son and partner is in these circumstances.
I do hope that there will be some closure as a result of this proceeding.