Solar panel installation company convicted and fined $120k

Sandarra Electrics Pty Ltd (now in liquidation) was a company that installed solar panels. On 23 November 2017, it was installing solar panels on a two storey residential property in Belmont. That day, WorkSafe Advisory got an anonymous call that two workers were installing the panels on a pitched double storey roof - only one person was wearing a harness.

When WorkSafe inspectors checked this out, they saw a worker on the first-floor verandah roof without fall protection. Another worker was on the second storey roof. Though he wearing a harness, it was not worn correctly, as he did not have his legs in the harness, instead it was fitted over his shoulders and arms. The harness was not attached to any fall protection ropes. In other words, it was useless.

The inspectors directed the workers to stop work and come down off the roof. The worker on the verandah roof was the director of the company. The worker on the second storey roof was a first-year apprentice. A work experience worker was also present and had been working on the ground. The inspectors also found there was no fall protection in place for the ladders being used to access the roof and no evidence of a bracket being used to attach the ladder to stop it from falling, should it slip. Further, there was no Safe Work Method statement for the works.

An ex parte plea was heard and the offender was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $60,000 for each charge ($120,000 in total).

Manufacturer fined after worker's fingers caught in machine

In another example of a worker having his fingers caught in a machine with badly designed guards, Regal Beloit Australia Pty Ltd was fined $12,500 (plus $3592 in costs) in the Ringwood Magistrates Court. The worker, who had been employed at the company for 22 years, needed surgery on his fingers. About 6 months after the incident, he was still receiving hand therapy twice a week and did not have full feeling or motion in his injured fingers.

Company fined $80k after tyre shredding injury

The operator of a tyre recycling facility has been convicted and fined $80,000 (and costs of $4,217) after a young worker was left with life-changing injuries.  Tyre Recycling Australia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Dandenong Magistrates' Court last week to a single charge alleging three breaches of the OHS Act of failing to provide a working environment that was, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.

The 18-year-old had been working on a tyre shredding machine at the Dandenong factory for less than a week in August 2018, when his right arm was dragged into a conveyer belt and crushed. He had reached into the machine while it was still running in an attempt to brush away shredded tyre material.

The father of three young children suffered extensive damage to his right hand and forearm and spent more than three months in hospital, undergoing several reconstructive surgeries. He requires ongoing medical treatment - it is estimated he will at best recover only 30 percent movement in his arm.

The court heard there was a serious injury risk to employees from an exposed conveyor belt and rollers at the rear of the tyre shredder, because the company failed to provide fixed guarding or a permanent physical barrier. It also failed to provide the necessary information, training and supervision to ensure employees did not approach the exposed danger areas while the machine was running. The company has since installed a combination of guarding and perimeter fencing on the tyre shredder, including interlocked gate access.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said there was no excuse for allowing workers to risk their health and safety using unguarded machinery, or clearing or cleaning machinery that is not switched off. "This worker has been left with permanent injuries that could have been avoided if appropriate guarding or training had been in place," Ms Nielsen said. "This incident will also have a life-long impact on his young family and is a tragic reminder of why employers must ensure the safety of their workers is always their first priority."

To keep up to date with prosecutions, go to the WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

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