Companies fined total of $140,000 over tanker driver deaths

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Two companies have been fined a total of $140,000 over the 2008 deaths of a tanker driver and a manager at the Broome depot of one of the companies.

Baker Hughes Australia Pty Ltd (operators of a Broome depot) and Oilfields Transport Services Pty Ltd (a transport services company engaged by Baker Hughes) were both charged with failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing the deaths of the two workers.

Baker Hughes was fined $80,000 and Oilfields Transport $60.000 in the Broome Magistrates Court today.

Leon Mobbs and Geoff Lucas, both 51, were killed in December 2008 when the tanker they were standing next to ruptured and exploded during attempts to empty it of a load of barite powder.

Mr Lucas and another employee had collected two tanker loads of barite powder from Baker Hughes’ depot and delivered it to the Broome wharf where it was to be transferred to a supply vessel. Mr Mobbs had accompanied the tankers in a car towing the required compressor.

It was alleged that the transfer of the barite to the vessel could not be completed at the wharf because the powder contained too much moisture, causing it to clog inside the tanker. The three men returned to the Baker Hughes depot to empty the tankers back into the silos.

One of the tankers was successfully unloaded, and the men commenced the unloading of the second tanker.

It was further alleged that, on a number of occasions, the tanker was de-pressurised while the inside was manually scraped down, then re-pressurised to remove the powder.

On the final occasion the tanker exploded, causing fatal injuries to Mr Mobbs and Mr Lucas, who were standing alongside 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,” Mr McCulloch said.

“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,” Mr McCulloch said.

Further information on safe systems of work can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877, or on the website at

Media contact:
Caroline De Vaney
9327 8744 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)
Follow @WorkSafeWA on Twitter 

Media release
15 May 2012

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