On 29 January 2021, the defendant company pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for breaching s 699 of the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, having failed to discharge an obligation imposed under the safety management system for the operating plant. The defendant failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure no person or property was exposed to more than an acceptable level of risk. The defendant was convicted and fined $60,000. A conviction was not recorded.
At a coal seam gas well site near Clifford, in the Western Downs Region, the defendant had been engaged as a contractor to clean a separator tank. On 31 January 2019, two employees of the defendant were tasked with cleaning the separator tank by the use of a recycler/combination unit truck fitted with a vacuum tank that was owned by the defendant. The truck had dual functions, as both a vacuum and a high-pressure water jet. When the revolutions of the truck motor were increased, both the vacuum suction hose pressure and the water expulsion pressure from the water jet hose increased.
Shortly after the commencement of the task, the worker controlling the water and suction pressure suddenly, and without notice to the other worker, increased the water pressure on the truck to a point where the other worker was unable to control the water jet hose due. Upon losing control of the hose, the worker was struck by the water hose nozzle and suffered a partial degloving of his face.
The safety management system for the operating plant required the workers to hold current and relevant competencies, qualifications skills and authorities to work when performing high risk work. The worker who operated the truck did not hold the relevant certificate of competency to operate the truck and representatives for the defendant company did not check to confirm that the worker held the relevant certificates to operate prior to commencing the task. Investigators from the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (now within Resources Safety and Health Queensland) conducted interviews with the employees of the defendant who arranged the task. They admitted that they did not check that the worker held the correct competency.
In sentencing, Magistrate Noel Nunan noted that the workers did not have the required certificate of competency to operate the truck. He considered the defendant’s guilty plea, the fact that the defendant had no previous convictions and that it co-operated with the investigators. Magistrate Nunan also noted that the injury sustained by the worker was a serious workplace injury.
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Section 699 of the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004