They also reportedly used buckets and an excavator in their attempts to stop the water flooding into the ditch.
But witnesses at the time said despite the frantic efforts the man’s head was under water in a matter of minutes, trapped in what looked like “quicksand”.
The plumbing and construction companies involved in the tragedy, Vivian Plumbing and Civil and Badge Constructions, have been charged with failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment, and causing the death of an employee.
They are facing fines of up to $2.7 million and $2 million respectively in the first case to be initiated under the new penalty regime rolled out by the government in 2018 as part of an overhaul of the Work Health and Safety Act.
The changes saw maximum penalties for level four offences, which included fatalities, soar to a maximum of $2.7 million for first-time offenders and $3.5 million for repeat offenders – up from $500,000 and $625,000, respectively.
Penalties for ‘level one’ offences, which are breaches of the regulations but don’t include injuries, also increased to $450,000 for first-time offences and $570,000 for repeat offenders.
Worksafe WA commissioner Darren Kavanagh said both companies would face significant penalties “as should be the case when a young worker has tragically lost his life”.
The first mention of the case will be heard on October 16.