EARLIER | Veolia pleads guilty two years after worker's tragic death

VEOLIA Environmental Services has been fined $200,000 for the death of employee Mark Chapelhow.

The 31-year-old senior worker was tragically killed on October 27, 2015, when the gas kiln he was operating at the company's South Trees site exploded.

He left behind fiancee Jessie-Lee Brown and their young son Ryder.

The horrific event was triggered by a hose pouring gas into the enclosed space.

Executive general manager Grant Winn pleaded guilty on behalf of Veolia in the Gladstone Magistrates Court yesterday morning.

The plea came more than two years after the workplace death.

 

Police and firefighters examine the kiln which exploded killing a worker at Veolia environmental services. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer
Police and firefighters examine the kiln which exploded killing a worker at Veolia environmental services. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer Mike Richards GLA271015EXPL

The company was charged with breaching Section 32 of the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011.

The court heard that Veolia was using the gas kiln to dry refracturing material (bricks) for the first time.

Defence lawyer Aaron Anderson said the electric kiln was not hot enough to dry the bricks and was converted to gas.

Despite prosecution admitting there was speculation about the exact cause of the explosion, the court was told there was sufficient evidence to prove fault lay with the "unorthodox" use of the kiln.

Magistrate Melanie Ho said the explosion was "not a ... solitary careless act".

"The conversion of an electric kiln to gas without using a competent person created a risk that was obviously avoidable," she said.

Prosecutor for Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Sarah Cartledge agreed.

"It was never intended for that purpose. There should have been a better way (for workers to light the kiln)," she said.

"It was unprofessional and the conversion was not done appropriately."

 

Mark Chapelhow died in a workplace incident at Veolia Environmental Services in Gladstone.
Mark Chapelhow died in a workplace incident at Veolia Environmental Services in Gladstone. Facebook

The maximum penalty for a Category 2 offence is 15,000 penalty units or $1.5million.

Prosecutions sought a penalty range of $200,000-$250,000.

It did not submit on whether or not a conviction should be recorded.

Veolia has had no prior convictions under the act.

Mr Anderson said the victim was a very experienced worker and a "highly respected member of the Gladstone refractories team".

In a media release sent yesterday morning, Veolia said its "thoughts are with Mark's family and loved ones".

"Veolia remains committed to a no-compromises approach towards the health and safety of our employees and the communities where we operate," the statement read.

 

WORK TRAGEDY: Police and firefighters examine the kiln which exploded killing a worker at Veolia Environmental Services.
WORKPLACE DEATH: Police and firefighters examined the gas kiln that exploded killing senior worker Mark Chapelhow, 31, in October, 2015. Michael Richards

Veolia is part of a group of companies, which employs more than 3500 people.

"The company has made significant contributions in the Gladstone community and is actively involved in the waste industrial industry," Ms Ho said.

She said Veolia had a health and safety duty, which it failed, exposing employees to the risk of death and injury.

"No blame falls on him (Mr Chapelhow)," Ms Ho said.

"There is no act at all by him which contributed to his death.

"The fault only lies in the workplace's system in this instant."

Ms Ho exercised her discretion and did not record a conviction, noting it would impact the company's ability to win future work.

Civil proceedings are ongoing.