Broome explosion firms fined over fatalities

Baker Hughes and Oilfields Transport to pay $140,000 over deaths of driver and depot manager

By Rob McKay| May 16, 2012

The fatal Broome tanker explosion case has cost a road-haulage firm and its customer $140,000, WorkSafe WA says.

The fines relate to a road tanker trailer explosion involving Baker Hughes Australia, as owner of a Broome depot, and Oilfields Transport Services, with Baker Hughes had contracted to shift barite powder at the time.

Baker Hughes was fined $80,000 and Oilfields Transport $60.000 in the Broome Magistrates Court for "failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing the deaths" of Baker Hughes depot manager Leon Mobbs and Oilfields Transport driver Geoff Lucas.

They died when the tanker they were near ruptured and exploded during attempts to empty it of a load of barite powder.

It was one of two three-axle semi-trailers involved in the contract.

WorkSafe WA alleged that, on a number of occasions after initial success on the first load, the second tanker was de-pressurised while the inside was manually scraped down, then re-pressurised to remove the powder.

On the final occasion the tanker, which had an unreliable manifold inlet gauge on it and which lacked legible safe operating pressure information, exploded.

An agreed statement of material facts stated that Oilfields Transport "had no system of training employees in the linits and correct working pressures of the tanker".

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today that the case was a tragic example of safe work systems not being in place.

"The tragic deaths of these two men should serve as a reminder that safe systems of work should be in place in every workplace, and that it is crucial that designers’ or manufacturers’ instructions be followed for all plant," McCulloch says.

"The court was told that the tanker was not maintained in a safe working condition, and that it had not been registered with WorkSafe or inspected by a competent person in many years.

"Safety procedures and adequate training had also been neglected, in all probability contributing to the loss of life that occurred that day.

"But the real tragedy is that there were safe systems of work available to both employers that could have prevented these deaths."

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