FAM­ILY TORN APART BY WORK TRAGEDY

WHY WORK­PLACE SAFETY NEEDS TO BE A PRI­OR­ITY

Daily Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - Cas Gar­vey cas.gar­vey@dai­ly­mer­cury.com.au

WHEN lit­tle Bent­ley McLough­lin grows up, the one thing his mum wants is for him to be able to come home from work each day safe.

Bent­ley, 5, had just two weeks with his dad Michael, when he died in an ex­plo­sion at a Mo­ran­bah in­dus­trial site in 2012.

The preppy with “a beau­ti­ful soul” breaks his mum’s heart when­ever he asks why his ‘Daddy Micky’ died, and when he can see him again.

For Tay­lor Ing, talk­ing about the work­place ac­ci­dent that claimed her 22-year-old fi­ance’s life is just as hard now as it was back then.

The Mackay mum hopes the new State Gov­ern­ment leg­is­la­tion passed on Thurs­day – that will see the na­tion’s tough­est work­place health and safety laws in place from July next year – means that no other fam­ily goes through what she went through on March 13, 2012.

It was Michael McLough­lin’s sec­ond day on the job when he was at­tempt­ing to weld a fun­nel, when the heat source made con­tact with oil and diesel fumes in­side a fuel tank he was stand­ing on. The ex­plo­sion threw Michael’s body 17.9m and he died from ex­ten­sive in­ter­nal in­juries.

The com­pany that em­ployed him, Tri Q Inc, was fined $125,000 af­ter plead­ing guilty in the Mackay In­dus­trial Mag­is­trates Court in 2013 to fail­ing to com­ply with a health and safety duty – Cat­e­gory 2.

Mag­is­trate Damien Dwyer said Tri Q “failed to iden­tify the risks” and there was no for­mal in­duc­tion for the work­site or for per­form­ing un­usual or one-off jobs, adding that “noth­ing was done to check to see if his tick­ets were in or­der”.

“He was not a qual­i­fied welder and should not have been weld­ing on that drum,” Ms Ing said.

“I’m sure he could have turned around and said ‘I can’t weld’ but who’s go­ing to say that on their sec­ond day? There should have been some­one re­spon­si­ble for him to say ‘hey have you, can you?’

“It shouldn’t have hap­pened that day.”

The now-mum of three was just 19 when got a knock at the door and heard Mick had been killed.

She’s be­come an ad­vo­cate for work­place health and safety, often reach­ing out to fam­i­lies of those who have died in pre­ventable work­place in­ci­dents to of­fer sup­port or ad­vice on how to get through it.

“Un­for­tu­nately we can’t change what’s hap­pened but we can sup­port the change in leg­is­la­tion, make peo­ple ac­count­able and make sure safety is be­ing en­forced in work­places,” Ms Ing said.

“Peo­ple are still dy­ing on the job, so ob­vi­ously not enough is be­ing done. I think some work­places are more aware than oth­ers around safety but I don’t think enough is be­ing done.”

She said the “rip­ple ef­fect” of a worker dy­ing on the job was too im­por­tant to ig­nore.

“They need to re­vise the leg­is­la­tion and work­place health and safety to the re­al­ity of the con­di­tions that they’re work­ing in,” Ms Ing said. “Even if they don’t hurt them­selves, not fol­low­ing leg­is­la­tion or not hav­ing some­thing in place to avoid ac­ci­dents, it doesn’t just af­fect that one per­son, it’s 100 peo­ple around them... their fam­ily, friends, work­mates.”

The State Gov­ern­ment’s leg­is­la­tion in­cludes the new of­fence of in­dus­trial man­slaugh­ter, which car­ries a max­i­mum penalty of 20 years im­pris­on­ment for an in­di­vid­ual and a max­i­mum fine of $10 mil­lion for cor­po­rate of­fend­ers.

“There are still too many busi­nesses and em­ploy­ers who are not tak­ing work­place safety se­ri­ously,” Mau­rice Blackburn Se­nior As­so­ciate Cyn­del Spiteri said.

“This leg­is­la­tion is wel­come – I have seen many fam­i­lies left dev­as­tated be­cause a pre­ventable work­place ac­ci­dent has taken a loved one from them, and it is im­por­tant that busi­nesses and em­ploy­ers now know that tough and se­ri­ous penal­ties will ap­ply if they do not pri­ori­tise safety.”

Ac­cord­ing to Safe Work Aus­tralia data, Queens­land again recorded the high­est num­ber of work­place fa­tal­i­ties of any state be­tween Jan­uary 2016 and April 2017, with 49 deaths.

More than 26,000 Queens­land work­ers are se­ri­ously in­jured in gen­eral work­place in­ci­dents each year.

As for when­ever Bent­ley asks how ‘Daddy Micky’ died, his mum tries to be as gen­tle as pos­si­ble with her an­swers.

“He’s okay with death now I guess as we talk about it a lot, I say ‘it was an ac­ci­dent at work, and this is why you have to be re­ally care­ful, even when you’re play­ing with your friends and this is why there’s rules’,” Ms Ing said.

And while the five-year-old is too young to worry about what job he’ll have when he’s older, his mum hopes there is “more en­force­ment and bet­ter pro­cesses” to pre­vent what hap­pened to his dad from hap­pen­ing to him.

This month is Na­tional Safe Work Month.

TAKEN AWAY: Michael McLough­lin, with his fi­ancee Tay­lor Ing, hold­ing the cou­ple’s new baby Bent­ley.

Tay­lor with son Bent­ley to­day, now aged five. :

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