Prosecutions

Employer convicted and fined $300,000 for worker death 

A metal treatment business has been convicted and fined $300,000 for an incident where a worker was killed when he became trapped in an electroplating machine at a Delacombe factory.

ACE Metal Treatment Services was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court yesterday after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to maintain plant that was safe and without risks to health.

On 29 October 2019, the worker suffered fatal chest injuries when he became trapped between a safety guard and the machine frame.

The Court heard the company did not have a regular maintenance schedule for the metal electroplating machine that crushed Mr Allie. A WorkSafe engineering report found the machine was "generally in an unsafe condition, with no cohesive or integrated safety protocols in place". The safety guards on the side of the machine were designed to shut down the machine if there was an obstruction between them and the frame, but the safety switches were not working. Sources: WorkSafe media release; ABC News online  

The other prosecutions we report on this week involved workers sustaining serious hand injuries. 

Recycler convicted, fined after worker loses hand

Recycling business SKM Services Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $70,000 after a worker’s hand was amputated at a Coolaroo factory in October 2014.

It was convicted under s21 in Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court on 22 September. 

The 36-year-old worker's right hand was amputated in a baler used to crush aluminium recycling into a cube. He was injured while strapping bales of crushed aluminium near the machine.

A WorkSafe investigation found the company had failed to reduce risks to workers' safety by not having a guard fitted to the machine to prevent access to the bale exit point.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Andrew Keen said WorkSafe would not hesitate to prosecute businesses that disregard their responsibility to provide a safe workplace. "Businesses must do everything reasonably possible to keep workplaces safe and protect workers from the risk of serious injury or death," Mr Keen said.

It is unclear whether the fine will be paid. 

Readers may recognise this company: SKM Recycling was issued with a string of infringement notices after a fire broke out at its Coolaroo recycling plant in 2017. Then, in August 2019 it was placed into receivership, owing creditors at least $100 million. SKM had stopped taking any more kerbside waste after the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) ordered the company's glass recycling service in Coolaroo to stop operating, due to dangerous and combustible stockpiles. The EPA had found SKM was storing tens of thousands of tonnes of waste in five warehouses in Melbourne's west.

Sources: WorkSafe media release; ABC news online   

Fruit company fined after worker sustains serious injuries

Swan Hill and Region Packing Pty Ltd, trading in the horticultural industry as ‘Sharp Fruit’ with three arms: fruit growing/farming, fruit grading/packing and marketing/distribution.

At its main grading/packing facility, located in Woorinen, fruit is separated manually according to quality. They process and pack the fruit which is brought to them by a powered item of plant essentially working as a conveyor belt. 

On 30 October 2019 an employee cleaning and maintaining the packing area and the grader sustained hand injuries. The worker was directed to start cleaning while the machine was operating. She stepped on the base of the grader, leant over to grab a box from a colleague on the other side, and her shirt got caught in an unguarded rotating shaft. While she tried to free her shirt, her hand was dragged in and also got caught in the shaft. She suffered serious injuries, including amputation of two fingertips and fractures. She was taken to hospital where only one fingertip could be reattached.

WorkSafe's investigations found that the shafts should have been guarded - the guards had been removed the day before when maintenance had been carried out and were not replaced. It also found the cleaning procedure to be unsafe.

The company was fined $25,000, without conviction, plus costs of $3,639.

Worker's hand caught in inadequately guarded rollers

Cedar Meats, Pty, Ltd is a meat processor in Brooklyn, and Labour Solutions Australia provided labour to the company. The worker injured was an employee of Labour Solutions Australia, and under s21(3) of the Act deemed an employee of Cedar Meats.

On 30 January 2019 the worker was cleaning the boning room area, an area where the meat is prepared for sale. She would regularly do this in the morning before work commenced. As she began wiping down a conveyor with a paper towel, it became caught between the conveyor and the box at the end of the belt. Her hand was pulled into the roller which continued to spin.

Co-workers came to help, removing the side guards to the tail drum of the conveyor to extricate her hand. The worker was taken to hospital where she received immediate surgery. As a result of the incident, she sustained injuries to her right wrist, forearm and elbow, and remained in hospital for two weeks.

While there were side guards on the tail drum section of the conveyor, there were no front or rear guards to prevent access to the drum roller, conveyor belt and idler rollers which had nip and pinch points. There was also no emergency stop service or lanyard along the conveyor. Since the incident, all conveyors were mounted with guards, safety lanyards and some E-stops had been installed. Toolbox meetings with all employees were conducted to discuss the new safety measures.

In sentencing the company, the court noted a number of factors including that it had never had any 'priors', generally had a good safety system in place, and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Cedar Meats was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $13,000, plus costs of $3,500.

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

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