On 25 June 2013, an experienced worker erected a floor frame for a demountable building. The worker asked his supervisor if he and a co-worker could erect and secure some internal walls (a job normally undertaken by another trade).
A three metre high polystyrene panel needed a threaded tie down rod inserted through it, to connect the underside of the floor with the polystyrene panel.
The worker attached a 3.2 metre auger bit to a Milwaukee 18 volt drill. While drilling, the auger bit grabbed and removed the glove on his left hand. His fifth finger, near the first knuckle was torn and his fourth finger was partially dislocated. He was taken to hospital and underwent surgery where he sustained partial amputation of a finger and tendon damage.
Investigations by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland revealed the 3.2 metre auger bit was fabricated on site by a certified structural welder and was owned by the defendant. The injured worker had a general induction to the workplace, but the use of portable power tools safe work method statement wasn't explained.
Workers were required to push a hot rod through the polystyrene panels before using this type of auger bit. The defendant thought that this was unsafe as it required the hot rod to remain on the factory floor. Alterations of augers (to a length in excess of three metres) was the subsequent work method.
After the incident, the defendant developed a new process to drill foam panels, including:
- cordon off work area for auger drill process
- any foam panel to be drilled is clamped in place
- the auger bit and drill were placed inside a steel jig fixed to a stand. This jig stabilised the auger and drill while minimising access to the moving auger
- no gloves to be worn
- a safe work procedure for operating the auger drilling jig was implemented and workers inducted.
The defendant cooperated with the investigation and pleaded guilty in the Southport Magistrates Court on 29 June 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 Mr Gary Finger fined the defendant $30 000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $1583.50. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the magistrate acknowledged the maximum penalty for the offence and the aims of the legislation including general deterrence for breaches. He noted the injured worker was experienced and took into account the company had advanced workplace health and safety practices prior to the incident including employment of a safety consultant, safe work method statements and training. He accepted that with the downturn in the mining industry, the company had significantly decreased its workforce and any fine would impact its operations. He took into account the company had also acted promptly and appropriately to the Statutory Notice issued.
Magistrate Finger acknowledged the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, and entered an early plea of guilty.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
Employers and business owners must provide information, instruction, training and supervision to workers and others at a workplace to ensure that work is performed in a safe manner and without risk to health.
Where there is exposure to risks from portable power tools, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures.
Obligation holders must consider engineering instructions and Australian Standards relating to how power tools should be used.
- Date of offence:
- Partial amputation of finger and tendon damage
- Southport Magistrates Court
- Mr Gary Finger
- s. 32 of the duty under s. 19 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Fined $30 000
- Maximum Penalty:
- $1 500 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: