Prosecutions

Victorian prosecutions

Company fined $60,000 for amputated fingers
A kitchen manufacturer has been convicted and fined $60,000 (plus $4,248 in costs) after a cabinet maker had three fingers severed while cutting panels.

In April 2018, the worker was using a panel saw to cut sections of melamine for the installation of a range hood. After cutting a panel, and standing beside the saw, he tried to push an off-cut into a waste bin while the blade was still spinning. The man's hand came into contact with the blade and three of his fingers were amputated from just above the first knuckle.

He spent nine days recovering in hospital after surgery to reattach his fingers.

The court heard Oliver Projects had previously engaged an OHS advisor to develop a safe operating procedure for the panel saw  - but had failed to implement it or use it to train staff! Brief instructions were set out in an exercise book attached to the saw, but they were inadequate as they did not require workers to turn off the saw and wait for the blade to stop before removing off-cuts.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said the life changing injury could have easily been avoided if the company had provided workers with proper training. Read more: WorkSafe media release.

Food manufacturer fined just $7,000 after worker gets hand caught

Terra Harvest Australia Pty Ltd, a Dandenong South food manufacturing company producing biscuits and rice crackers.

The company's production line has two seasoning machines, each of which has four tumblers attached to arms projecting from the centre. These rotate the tumblers while oil and seasoning is added. Workers need to periodically test the quantity of oil and seasoning being dispensed. A perimeter fence preventing access surrounded each machine. To gain access, workers used an interlocked gate which would automatically deactivate the machine when used. There were also two padlocked discharge conveyor gates which had to be opened when cleaning the conveyor. The padlock key was kept in the supervisor's office.

On 29 March 2018 the company refreshed the training of the workers carrying out this task.

On 5 April 2018 while testing the seasoning, a worker unlocked one of the padlocked gates rather than using the interlocked gate. Whilst doing so, the machine unexpectedly started moving and the worker's left hand was caught. Co-workers helped release his hand. Luckily, he suffered only mild bruising.

Had the employee followed the standard operating procedure the incident would not have occurred.

The company acknowledged it failed to supervise the employee in that it failed to notice or intervene when he entered the fenced off area while the machine was still operating.

The Court heard that:

  • It was the worker's first job in Australia;
  • The padlock key was obtained by the worker from the supervisor's office whilst two supervisors were present in that room;
  • The company had been in business for several years without incident;
  • The company had comprehensive safety policies and procedures in place at the time.
  • The quantum of the fine was moderated given the sum of costs sought by VWA. The offender pleaded guilty and had no prior OHS matters.

Terra Harvest pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $7,000 plus $9,270 in costs.

To find our more details, and to keep up to date with new prosecutions, check WorkSafe Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage.

International prosecutions

UK: Boss  jailed for four years after employee’s death

A company boss in the UK has been jailed after an employee was crushed to death by nearly half a tonne of glass panels. Han Rao was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for manslaughter following trial at the Old Bailey. He was further sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for criminal breaches of health and safety laws, to run concurrently.

On 16 November 2015, Rao tasked two employees at TLW (UK) logistics company to break up several damaged glazing panels. A 39-year-old worker and his colleague were tipping the panels into a skip before smashing them up by hand. As he manoeuvred a 400-kilo panel into position with a forklift truck it toppled forward, crushing him against the truck. He suffered injuries to his chest, fracturing his sternum and rupturing his heart and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The subsequent investigation found Rao had no health and safety policies in place and had not provided his employees the correct training or supervision. On the day of the incident, another employee warned Rao the worker’s life was being endangered by the work, however Rao did not tell the workers to stop, instead urging them to be careful and wear gloves.

Detective Constable Andy Jose, who led the investigation, said: “Rao was woefully unqualified as a manager. Not only did he have no knowledge or experience of his duties, he had not taken any steps to find out what he was required to do in terms of health and safety. He had also been made aware that this was a dangerous task but had not done anything to mitigate the risks. In fact, he ignored all of the warning signs put to him, signs which could have prevented Marian’s needless death had he acted upon them.”
Read more: Metropolitan Police news release. Walthamstow Guardian.Source: Risks 933

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