SA: Court Fines 3 Firms over Plant Accidents

The Industrial Court has fined three employers over $50,000 yesterday for three different occasions where employees were involved in machinery accidents.

The three companies pleaded guilty for breaching the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986, in failing to provide plant in a safe condition, safe systems of work, and adequate training and instruction.

The court convicted and fined $26,000 a construction company over an accident at its Kingston Park construction site.

On September 2007, a 19-year-old apprentice was using a circular power saw when it jerked suddenly. The equipment sawed into his left forearm, resulting in severe bone, tendon, nerve and soft tissue injuries.

SafeWork SA said the male apprentice was told to hold the saw with one hand while securing the timber to be cut with his other hand. According to Magistrate Michael Ardlie, this method was hazardous and inadequate considering the apprentice’s lack of experience.

“The defendant failed to carry out any adequate hazard identification and risk assessment for the task,” Magistrate Ardlie said.

The business has been sold after the incident, and the OHS systems have since been replaced.

In another case, a manufacturing company specialising in steel was convicted and fined $22,400 for an employee accident at its facility in O’Sullivan’s Beach.

On October 2007, an employee doing maintenance work on a steel-milling machine, when his right hand was caught in the machine’s unguarded chain and sprocket. The worker sustained injuries to three fingers of his hand.

Magistrate Ardlie observed the company had extensive safety systems in place and the trapping
point during a normal operation mode was not accessible.

However, he added, “Whilst the defendant had considered in some detail the operation of the plant it had not considered the trapping point… being accessible in the way the employee accessed it.”

In the third case, the Court convicted and fined $9,000 a printing and mailing company over an incident at its Camden Park site.

On August 2007, a female employee injured her left hand while operating a book-stapling machine, crushing a fingertip of her left hand.

In its investigation, SafeWork SA found the machine’s moving parts were accessible to the operator.

After the incident, the company has installed a more effective guard on the machine. It has also conducted a full risk analysis of the facility. The incident was the company’s first safety breach in more than 37 years.

SafeWork SA Executive Director Michele Patterson said contact with moving machinery is a common cause of injury in the workplace.

“These three cases highlight the need to rigorously factor safety into all facets of work, especially the plant and equipment involved and the work practices themselves,” she said.

“The vast majority of incidents of harm such as these are foreseeable and avoidable, provided the appropriate analysis identifies all situations which may arise, no matter how unusual or infrequent.”

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