01:49 pm, Thursday 26 January, 2012
A Reservoir business has been fined more than $37,000 after a worker’s hand was crushed in a defective machine.
The company pleaded guilty at the Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday to two offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. They admitted to have failed in providing a safe working environment for its workers as well as provide the information, instruction and training needed to safely do their job.
The charges are in relation to an incident which happened in September 2009, when a worker at its factory had three of his fingers crushed and partially amputated by a mechanical press.
The court heard that the mechanical press exerted one tonne of force and was being used to manufacture DVD presentation boxes.
The company’s own mechanical engineer warned the company a day before the incident that the machine was unsafe to use after one of its buttons was found to be cracked and that it could be operated by a single button. The machine was supposed to activate only when two buttons are pushed at the same time. This was a safety feature which was designed to ensure that the operator’s hands were well away from the area where they might get crushed.
The company ordered a replacement button on the day it found out the problem, but allowed its workers to continue using the unsafe machine.
An investigation conducted by WorkSafe revealed that it was common practice at the factory for two people to operate the machine at once, risking their safety. The machine could only be operated safely by one person, but workers were not informed about this.
Magistrate Smith fined the company $37,500 without conviction. They were also ordered to pay $6,351 in legal costs.
Magistrate Smith said that had the company not pleaded guilty; they would have been convicted and fined $50,000.
WorkSafe Operations General Manager, Liza Sturzenegger, said that businesses need to set an example at the workplace.
“If workers aren’t properly trained on what’s safe and what’s not, they will keep working the way they do because they have not been told it’s acceptable,” said Ms Sturzenegger.
“Just because it’s the way the workplace has always done something doesn’t mean it’s the safe way, and businesses need to ensure work is carried out as safely as possible and that staff are fully trained.
“Unguarded or faulty equipment should be taken out of service, until it is fixed or made safe. As this incident shows us, the consequences of not doing this are considerable and long lasting.”