The sentencing judge described the death as a fundamental breach of safety.
Donal Scanlon died on November 18, 2015, while he was working for Bryan and Coakley Ltd, trading as B&C Services of Marhill Court, Foxhole Industrial Estate, Youghal.
The company has two directors, Mark Coakley and Ivan Bryan, and a guilty plea was entered by Mr Coakley on behalf of the company to a charge of failing to provide a safe and well-organised system of work, a failure that caused the death of the young man.
Defence senior counsel James O’Mahony said, in mitigation, the directors were deeply remorseful to the family, they were fully insured and had taken advice and direction to make sure such an incident would not occur again.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “There is no doubt this was an unspeakable tragedy for the family of a 21-year-old man in his apprenticeship, full of the vigour and joys of life.
“He went out to do his day’s work and not alone died but he died in appalling circumstances which will live with the family forever. I can accept the continuing nature of that hurt as felt by the family.
“It was also entirely preventable. The culpability of the company is high. The level of preparation, the level of management, the level of supervision were all significantly lacking.
“Going at this drum with the equipment given and where the remains of fuel and fumes were present was, to anyone, reckless at the very least,” the judge said.
“The accident should have been avoided with the minimum amount of care and supervision by the employer, which was lacking.
“I accept it is a small company that are conscientious about the manner in which they met the case, they took advice and correction and are genuinely remorseful.
“I cannot impose a fine so large as to put the company out of business. I must be constrained by the ability of the company to pay the fine which is a lot lower than I was considering.”
He gave the company 12 months to pay the fine.
Inspector Gerard McSweeney said a health and safety inspector discovered the deceased was in the process of opening a lid using a plasma cutter.
The lid blew off and struck him on the head causing him fatal injuries.
Mr Scanlon had been preparing the drum so it could be used to store metal scrap. Once he pierced the drum with the plasma cutter there was waste oil and fumes inside which created an explosion.
The judge noted: “There is invariably going to be waste in the drum. This is fairly fundamental. It is a fundamental breach of safety.”
Anne Stack, an aunt of deceased, spoke on behalf of the family in relation to how they had suffered.
She said Wednesday, November 18, 2015, would always be etched in their memory and that their hearts were broken on that day.
“He radiated happiness and brought good humour and joy wherever he went. He was very hard-working and was the heart and soul of our family,” she said.
The young man is survived by his parents Geraldine and John, and siblings, Aisling and Jim.
He was an active member of Clashmore GAA club where he is also greatly missed.
Ms Stack said the deceased loved life on the farm and was building it up with his dad.
“All we can do now is visit his grave daily. There is an empty chair at our table. We have cried every day. We love you Donie forever,” she concluded in the family’s victim impact statement.