Ipswich man Matthew O’Brien, 38, a plant operator at Oil Tech International Pty Ltd at Yatala, died on the morning of November 5, 2015.
Ipswich man Matthew O’Brien, 38, a plant operator at Oil Tech International Pty Ltd at Yatala, died on the morning of November 5, 2015.

‘Easily preventable’ fiery death leads to huge fine

A GOLD Coast company has been fined $800,000 over an "easily preventable" workplace incident in which a man was burnt to death.  

Ipswich man Matthew O'Brien, 38, a plant operator at Oil Tech International Pty Ltd at Yatala, died on the morning of November 5, 2015.  

Oil Tech and its sole director Michael Joseph Reid were charged in October 2017 with reckless conduct by the Office of the Workplace Health and Safety Prosecutor.  

However, in Beenleigh District Court  last week, the office offered nolle prosequi, no evidence, against Mr Reid, meaning only the company, which the court heard had been essentially liquidated, would answer the charge.  

Mr O'Brien and another worker were the only two on site when the tragic incident occurred, the court heard at the time.   A tanker containing a mixture of water and petrol arrived to unload its noxious cargo, only to find all storage tanks were full to the brim.  

Mr O'Brien called his manager, who informed him to direct the tanker's driver to unload their payload onto a driveway which was sloped on all sides, leaving the liquid to pool in the bottom.  

Initially, the liquid released was just water, but after a minute or two, a pink liquid, petroleum, which had risen to the top of the tanker due to water being denser, began flowing.  

Simultaneously to this, Mr O'Brien had been operating a 240-volt heat gun to expand the hose of a trash pump, which would be used to pump the liquid out of the pit.  

The driver, realising the imminent danger, shouted a warning, but it was too late - the confined nature of the space meant fumes had not dissipated, and either the heat from the gun or a spark from its motor ignited a massive fireball which consumed Mr O'Brien.  

The tanker's driver attempted to combat the flames with a fire extinguisher, but they were so intense he was unable to locate Mr O'Brien.  

Originally published as 'Easily preventable' fiery death leads to huge fine for Coast business


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