Repeat workplace safety offenders land in court

Three companies and two persons landed in court this month for serious repeat workplace safety offences.

Lisa Sturzenegger, WorkSafe’s General Manager of Operations, said the courts took workplace safety issues seriously, particularly when there had been prior offences.

“If you have been dealt with by the courts once, they and the community expect you to learn a lesson and take action to avoid a repeat offence.

“It is disappointing that we have had to take action against companies and individuals who should know better.

“Safety must be a priority for directors, managers and supervisors who must look for, and deal with, potential safety issues.

A meat processing company and a labour hire firm were each convicted and fined $100,000 with costs of $2,463 on Tuesday after a worker lost his fingers in an inadequately guarded machine in 2010.

Both companies pleaded guilty to workplace health and safety charges at the Werribee Magistrates Court.

In June 2010, the victim, an employee of the labour hire firm working at the meat processing company crushed three of his fingers in the spinning rollers of a machine he was cleaning and oiling.

An investigation conducted by WorkSafe revealed that the machine’s guards had a gap of 20cm which was wide enough to allow hands and fingers to come in contact with the rollers. It was also not locked-out or isolated from the power supply and the work instruction was inherently dangerous.

Magistrate Fitzgerald heard that the possibility of the incident happening was high as the casing machine was cleaned and oiled every day and that a basic interlock guard could have prevented the incident.

The labour hire firm was aware of the problem and informed the meat processing company through a letter a few months before the incident.

Both companies had prior offences for workplace safety issues. In July 2009, the meat processing company was convicted and fined $45,000. The labour hire firm was convicted and fined $40,000 in 2005.

Just this month, an Epping-based company and its director were convicted and fined $124,000 on two counts after being charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act over incidents which happened in August and December 2009.

On Wednesday, a person was prosecuted the second time at the Geelong Magistrates Court for the second time for working as an unlicensed asbestos removalist and was fined $13,250.

Ms Sturzenegger said that making sure machines were adequately guarded and that workers had the right training and systems of work were the most fundamental obligations if running a business.

“Apart from the effect on the individual who is hurt or exposed to risk, a conviction and fines can have significant financial consequences for businesses and their reputations.

“Dealing with safety issues is an investment in the business and your people. Get it right and many problems and avoidable business costs are avoided.”

More information on preventing workplace injuries and matters on workers compensation can be found at the WorkSafe website.

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