10:57 am, Thursday 17 May, 2012
Photo: WorkSafe Victoria
An Epping-based business and its company director have been prosecuted over serious workplace health and safety charges for the second time in four years.
The company and its director were convicted and fined a total of $124,000 after being charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act over safety violations in August and December 2009.
In sentencing this week, Magistrate Elizabeth Lambden said that she would have expected safety to be part of the organisation’s day to day operations after it was prosecuted in 2006 for a workplace fatality.
In August 2009, a worker had his finger crushed while using a pipe-bending machine designed by the director. A light curtain, which should automatically stop the machine if a beam was broken had been over-ridden.
Another worker had the tip of his finger partially severed in December 2009 as he tried to remove a piece of metal that had just been cut by saw. The victim’s glove was caught by the saw which did not stop at the rate required by Australian Standards.
An investigation conducted by WorkSafe revealed that the company did not have standardised or consistent training and keys which allowed machines to be over-ridden were kept in them which meant they were not adequately guarded. It was also revealed that the company director failed to take reasonable care for the health and safety of workers who might be affected by his acts or omissions in the workplace.
The company pleaded guilty to one charge in relation to each incident under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. It was convicted and fined $98,000 plus $8000 in costs.
The company director pleaded guilty to one charge in relation to the August 2009 incident under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. He was also convicted and fined $26,000.
The company and its director were first prosecuted in December 2009 over a death of a man at its Epping factory in August 2006. Both were convicted and fined $100,000.
WorkSafe’s General Manager of Operations, Lisa Sturzenegger said that effective machine guarding as well as training of workers were fundamental obligations for all employers and should be a priority for directors, managers and supervisors.
“Ensuring machines are adequately guarded at all times and regularly checked to ensure safety mechanisms are not being circumvented is a basic part of running the business. It maximises productivity and is an investment in the business.
“When machines are not guarded – and that includes guards not being set up or working correctly or being over-ridden – serious consequences can happen in an instant.
“As this case shows, the courts take these issues seriously. Apart from the effect on the individual, a conviction and fines can have significant financial consequences for companies and the people who lead them,” said Ms Sturzenegger.