The defendant (a local government), operated a sewerage and water treatment plant.
On 7 February 2012, an auger in a septage receiver unit at the treatment plant became blocked with waste. Two workers were directed to unblock the waste caught around the shaft of the auger. The auger was stopped, a guard bolted to the auger on top of the machine was removed and the waste was cleared. The auger was restarted with one of the workers hands entangled, and his finger was amputated.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court on 20 April 2015 to breaching s. 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet its work health and safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate Mark Morrow fined the defendant $32 500 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1074.40. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Court acknowledged the defendant was an otherwise good corporate citizen. There were work method systems (WMS) in place generally but there was not an appropriate activity specific WMS for the task of unblocking the item of plant. In short, the incident was unusual but more importantly the plant is no longer used, thereby minimising future risk.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Morrow took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered an early plea of guilty (after interlocutory technical legal issues were finalised).
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When deciding on control measures to manage the risk of injury associated with plant, persons conducting a business or undertaking should refer to the Managing risks of plant in the workplace code of practice for guidance, in particular part five.
Where guarding is used to prevent workers being injured from moving parts:
- If plant or equipment is out of service due to maintenance or cleaning activities, ensure appropriate lockout and tag out processes are in place and have been communicated to staff.
- Isolate plant before maintenance and repair commences. Where a machine cannot be adequately guarded due to maintenance issues, consider decommissioning the plant until the necessary repairs have been made and the guarding replaced.
- Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- Date of offence:
- Amputation of finger
- Rockhampton Magistrates Court
- Mr Mark Morrow
- s.32 of the dutys. 32 of the duty under s.19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $32 500
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: