Prosecutions

Manufacturer fined $75k after worker's hand crushed

A plastics manufacturer has been convicted and fined $75,000 and ordered to pay $70,000 in costs after a worker's hand was crushed by unguarded machinery at a Seaford factory in 2016.

Icon Plastics was sentenced in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court last Monday after being found guilty on 8 April to one charge of failing to provide or maintain a safe system of work.

On the day of the incident, the worker was examining why the injection moulding machine had stopped running. He opened the top guard, restarted the machine and reached in with a pen to separate two plastic discs. He dropped the pen and when he reached in to grab it, his hand was crushed. The severe injury left the worker unable to drive and off work for six months.

The court heard it was reasonably practicable for the company to have installed interlock guarding that would have prevented access to the danger point while the machine was running.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said there were no excuses for failing to properly guard machinery. "Installing an interlock device is a simple solution that would have prevented this horrible incident," Ms Nielsen said. "It's up to employers to ensure they are doing all they can to keep their workers safe." Read more, including what employers should be doing to manage risks associated with working with machinery: WorkSafe media release.

Construction company fined for unsafe worksite

Building company UNIK Constructions was last week convicted and fined $35,000, plus $6797 costs, for exposing workers to risk of serious injury on a residential construction site at Ferntree Gully. The company pleaded guilty in the Ringwood Magistrates' Court to two charges of failing to eliminate or reduce the risk of a fall from height and two charges of failing to prepare or perform work in accordance with a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS).

In August 2017, a WorkSafe inspector who attended the worksite saw workers on the second storey with no fall prevention measures in place. The inspector also found there was no SWMS for the high risk construction works and that the scaffold being used to access the area was unsafe.

Two improvement notices were issued, as well as a prohibition notice prohibiting work from the scaffold.  Returning the next day, the inspector observed unsafe work from height had continued and a further prohibition notice was issued prohibiting works to the external face of the first floor.

Three subsequent visits identified continued unsafe work from height at the site, including use of the scaffold and work not being done in accordance with a SWMS. Two further improvement notices were issued.

WorkSafe's Julie Nielsen said there were no excuses for failing to manage the risks of falls from height, which were a leading cause of death and serious injury in the construction industry.  While Ms Nielsen noted that "Even though nobody was injured in this instance, it's a reminder that WorkSafe is out there enforcing workplace safety" the fact that the company ignored several prohibition notices, and it was only after five visits by WorkSafe that the company was prosecuted is of real concern, both because the high risk workers faced during this time, and also because the company should have been prosecuted earlier - rather than being given four warnings before action was taken by the regulator.  Read more: WorkSafe media release 

Parks Victoria fined $100k over rider injuries

The fine is as a result of an incident in which two men were seriously injured while riding motorbikes in a nature reserve near Portland in 2018.

The agency pleaded guilty in the Portland Magistrates' Court last week to failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health or safety. It was fined $100,000 without conviction and ordered to pay $3,639 in costs.

The two men were riding in Narrawong Flora Reserve in November 2018 at a speed of between 70 and 80km/h when they struck two cable barriers that were suspended across a track. One required surgery after suffering a fractured vertebrae, fractured pelvis and internal injuries. The other man sustained a broken collarbone, broken arm, fractured wrist and torn cartilage in his ribs.

A WorkSafe investigation found the cable barriers and attached signage were used to define tracks in the reserve that were subject to seasonal road closures between the Queen's Birthday and Melbourne Cup weekends. The court heard there was no inspection regime in place for the barriers and they had not been removed in line with Parks Victoria's published reopening dates due to a lack of staffing.

WorkSafe’s Julie Nielsen said it was an important reminder that employers must consider more than just the safety of their workers. "It's up to all duty holders to ensure that members of the public and other persons are not exposed to health and safety risks on sites they manage and control," she said. "This was an obvious hazard that should have been addressed through a safe work procedure and these two men are now dealing with the serious consequences of that inaction." Read more: WorkSafe media release 

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

NT: Cattle contractor charged after worker severely burnt in barrel explosion

In a shocking case, NT’s WHS regulator has laid four charges against a cattle mustering contractor after an 18-year-old employee was severely burnt in an explosion. He was then left for six days before being taken to hospital.

A NT Worksafe spokesman said Aaron Peter Kerr, trading as Kerr Contracting & Co, faces two charges of reckless conduct under the Work Health and Safety Act. These charges, also known as category one charges, are the most serious charges available to us for a serious workplace incident that does not involve a death," he said.

Mr Kerr also faces two other charges for not notifying NT Worksafe of the incident until seven days after and failing to preserve the site of the explosion.

NT Worksafe said Mr Kerr and his workers were mustering at a camp on Montejinni Station, about 320 kilometres south-west of Katherine. It is alleged Mr Kerr directed a worker to cut the lid off a 44-gallon Avgas drum to use as a rubbish bin and asked another to assist. As the two workers tried to wash and clean the drum, the 18-year-old used an angle grinder to cut through it, which caused an explosion. He suffered burns to his hands, arms, face and nasal passages.

Despite the injured worker complaining of persistent pain and that his condition was worsening, Mr Kerr did not contact emergency services or arrange transport for the worker to get appropriate medical treatment. It would be six days before the worker was transported from the camp at Montejinni Station to Katherine Hospital.

If found guilty of all four charges, Mr Kerr would face a combined maximum penalty of $1,220,000 or five years imprisonment — or both.
Source: ABC News online

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