01 Nov 2017

$40,000 fine after worker suffers amputation on unguarded machine

A scrap metal recycler was fined $40,000 in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court recently after a worker sustained crush and amputation injuries to his left hand, including amputation to the top of the thumb and first joint of the index finger and fractures to his left index and middle fingers, requiring the insertion of screws in the knuckle joint.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 after an investigation found the worker had been using a cable stripper machine without a guard.

On 9 November 2015, three workers were using a cable stripper to strip insulation from cables when a worker removed the machine guard to enable larger diameter cables to be fed directly through the cutting blades.

The managing director and manager of the defendant company were in the vicinity, but did not have a clear line of sight to the cable stripper when another worker increased the machine’s speed. As the worker began to feed another cable through it, his glove was caught, dragging his left hand into the cutting blades.

The court heard:

  • no formal training was provided on using the cable stripper machine and informal training included partnering inexperienced workers with more experienced operators
  • workers were not shown the manual provided with the machine when it was purchased. It contained safety warnings regarding the hazards associated with the machine
  • the managing director had provided a number of verbal warnings to workers not to remove the guard and to use the larger machine for bigger cable
  • no formal action happened to prevent the removal of the guard to enable inappropriate use
  • there were no written procedures on how to operate the machine. At the time of the incident, the defendant was implementing a documented health and safety system, but workers were not given any formal instruction until post-incident.

The company was fined $40,000 and ordered to pay professional and court costs of $1,589.40. Taking into account the defendant’s lack of previous convictions and the impact a conviction may have on the ability for the company to obtain contracts, the magistrate ruled no conviction be recorded.

The court however rejected a submission by the defence that consideration be given to the duty held by the worker under s.28 of the Act, determining that no blame could be attributed to the employee for removing the guard. He had not received the benefit of formal training and there were no clear or written systems in place for the use of the machine.

The magistrate acknowledged this was the defendant’s first offence in its 28 years of operation and it was a good corporate citizen. The magistrate also took into account the defendant’s sensible attitude toward safety and its engagement of a consultancy company to implement formal systems both pre-incident, at a cost of $90,000, and post-incident, with an all up outlay of around $200,000.

Further information

To help manage the risk of entanglement in machinery or amputation due to insufficient guarding on plant, the following resources are available:

For more information on work health and safety prosecutions, visit www.worksafe.qld.gov.au or call 1300 362 128.

This article was featured in /www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/ last 27 October 2017.

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