A tank manufacturer, Polymaster Pty Ltd, has been fined $65,000 after a worker lost her thumb in an incident at their Swan Hill factory. In March 2021, the worker was using an industrial wide belt sander while wearing leather rigging gloves.
A flat metal bar she was holding was dragged downward, trapping her left hand between the rotating belt and a resting plate. Unable to reach the emergency stop button, she had to call her supervisor to stop the machine. When she removed her hand, it was clear that her left thumb had been amputated at the second joint and ground down by the belt.
She was airlifted to the hospital but attempts to reattach the thumb were unsuccessful.
WorkSafe's investigation revealed that the worker was not aware of a specific safe work method statement for operating the machine, which stated that gloves or loose clothing that might become entangled should not be worn while using the sander.
The company was subsequently fined for failing to provide a safe work system. The worker's injury had a significant impact, and WorkSafe emphasized the importance of employers identifying hazards, training staff, developing safe procedures, maintaining safety guards, servicing equipment, and eliminating or reducing risks when working with machinery.