Taylor with son Bentley today, now aged five.
Taylor with son Bentley today, now aged five.

Family torn apart by tragic workplace explosion

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."

 

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

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 $10million 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.

"The last thing I want is for my son to go to work and the same thing happen to his children or wife or friend, or even be there to watch that happen; I wouldn't wish that on anybody," Ms Ing said.

"I've seen what it's done to Mick's family - a little piece of them went that day too."

This month is National Safe Work Month.

 

JASON'S LAW: Michael Garrels says his faith in politics has been restored by Queensland parliament's unanimous support for legal changes which might have saved his son's life - as long as the bureaucrats implement the change effectively.
JASON'S LAW: Michael Garrels says his faith in politics has been restored by Queensland parliament's unanimous support for legal changes which might have saved his son's life - as long as the bureaucrats implement the change effectively. Arthur Gorrie

Workplace Health and Safety legislation passes

Tough new industrial manslaughter laws aimed at protecting Queensland workers on the job have been passed in State Parliament.

Individuals found guilty of industrial manslaughter could face 20 years imprisonment, with corporate offenders liable for fines of up to $10million.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the new laws would leave negligent employers culpable in workplace deaths with nowhere to hide.

"Negligent employers culpable in workplace fatalities in Queensland will face severe penalties for the new offence of industrial manslaughter," she said.

"These penalties send out a strong message to all employers that negligence causing death won't be tolerated under any circumstances. Because of increasingly elaborate corporate structures, up until now it's been difficult to prosecute some employers for manslaughter.

"But these new laws will hold all employers - regardless of their size or structure - accountable for negligence contributing to a worker's death.

Michael Garrels, whose son Jason, also 20, died in a preventable workplace accident in Clermont in 2012, just a month before Michael McLoughlin, said it was great to see the government implement a crucial preventative measure to protect Queenslanders in the workplace.

"I believe these laws will definitely save lives and that if they'd been in place at the time they would have made a difference in my son Jason's case," Mr Garrels said.

"The only people with anything to be afraid of are those that are doing the wrong thing."


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