Prosecutions

Timber products manufacturer and director convicted and fined 

Timberwood Panels Pty Ltd, a manufacturer and distributor of timber veneers, veneered and coloured boards, plywood, particleboard and medium-density fibreboard (MDF), operating in Campbellfield, and Iain Agyeman, a director and Production Manager of the sanding and trimming line, have been convicted and fined after a worker was crushed by a machine.

On 6 June 2019 an employee entered the robotic hoist area of the sanding and trimming line in order to clear a malfunction. He accessed the area through a gate, which had had its interlock overridden, and through a missing section of internal fencing. As he approached the malfunction area, he began moving panels which triggered the sensor, causing the robotic hoist to activate. The hoist then descended upon him and trapped him underneath. Co-workers heard the employee calling for help and ran to help. The hoist was eventually manually lifted off him.

He was taken to hospital by ambulance, suffering a fractured sacrum, bulge to his L4/L5 disc and pinched nerve in his left leg. He returned to work on modified duties in August 2019. As of March 2021, he continued to receive physiotherapy and remained on restricted duties.

An investigation found that the main risk control implemented on the sanding and trimming line was a distance guard fitted with interlocks on the gates which had been bypassed. The interlock switch would continuously send to the trim line control system the signal that the doors were closed and that it was safe to operate it. The doors could be freely opened and the danger area accessed without affecting the operation of the equipment.

At the time of the incident, a number of other safety guards allowing physical access to various dangerous areas of the trimming line (including the guillotine, running feed rollers, glue spreader, the saw blades the robotic hoists) had been removed. Other interlock control measures had also been disabled or bypassed, so that the corresponding access points could be opened without shutting the plant off, which was contrary to design. This permitted access to the designated danger areas, whilst the plant would continue to run.

In addition, the instructions provided to employees operating the trimming and sanding line were inadequate, since employees were not adequately trained in safe operation of the plant, risk identification and tag and lockout procedures.

The company and the director pleaded guilty. Both were convicted, with the company fined $35,000 (plus $3,640 in costs), and the director fined $25,000

Two employers fined after labour hire work seriously injured

A labour-hire company and a host employer have both been fined after a worker’s hand was caught in an unguarded piece of plant.

The host employer, Chinese appetiser manufacture Makmur Enterprises Pty Ltd was fined $90,000 with conviction, while labour-hire company Tristaff Recruitment Ltd was fined $20,000 without conviction, in relation to the injury.

Victoria's Online Magistrates Court outlined a number of reasonably practicable measures the labour-hire company should have taken to ensure the safety of its workers at host sites.

In December 2018, a Tristaff worker at a Richmond Makmur factory was holding a plastic cover to a vegetable dicer's outlet chute when his left hand was sucked into the machine and became caught between the crosscut knives and the back of the chute. It took the Metropolitan Fire Brigade more than two hours to free the worker's hand, which was seriously injured.

Makmur pleaded guilty to two charges under section 21 of the State OHS Act. Tristaff pleaded guilty to one charge.

WorkSafe Victoria alleged workers operating the dicer were at risk of serious injury because it was possible for parts of their body to access the crosscut knives while the dicer was operating, and that it was reasonably practicable for Makmur to eliminate or reduce the risk by installing interlocked guarding over the chute.

Makmur should also have provided workers with information, instruction and training on how to perform their work safely, including: information on the hazards associated with the dicer; a documented safe operating procedure; and training to ensure the instructions were clearly understood including by workers who spoke English as a second language, the Court heard.

It found Tristaff should have eliminated or minimised the risk to its employees by:

  • Attending the workplace regularly to identify the risks to its workers;
  • Recording what actions were needed to reduce or eliminate those risks;
  • Consulting with Makmur on these actions before placing employees at the premises;
  • Monitoring the work its employees were performing to ensure they were not assigned duties or tasks they were not equipped to perform safely; and
  • Consulting with employees on their duties at the workplace and what they perceived were risks.

In addition to the fines, Makmur and Tristaff were ordered to pay $2,659 and $4,392 respectively in costs.

To check for any Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage. 

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