On the 20 August 2014 a young worker had three fingers amputated from his right hand while operating a wood splitting machine, called an Aussie Chopper Superaxe. This plant was mobile and hydraulic powered, designed and manufactured for two-handed operation using two lever controls to be pushed simultaneously. The defendant modified this plant by bolting both levers together enabling one handed operation. The worker using the modified plant, activated the lever causing the wood splitter to operate in the downward stroke onto the workers right hand amputating three fingers. He was transferred to hospital where he underwent surgery to re-attach the fingers.
On 16 April 2015, the defendant pleaded guilty in the Noosa Magistrates Court to breaching s. 32 of theWork Health and Safety Act2011, having failed to meet his work health and safety duties and was sentenced.
Magistrate Madsen imposed a s.239 order that the defendant not offend against theWork Health and Safety Act 2011 for a period of 12 months, with a recognisance in the sum of $15 000 to be forfeited if s convicted of an offence within this period. He ordered professional and court costs of $1079.40. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the magistrate considered submissions concerning the financial impecuniosity of this individual including both the statutory as well as impending common law claim (this defendant did not have the relevant work insurance cover and has entered into a payment agreement with WorkCover as a consequence of this matter). A victim impact statement was also tendered by the prosecutor.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Madsen took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, cooperated with the investigation and entered a very early plea of guilty (at the first mention).
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the forestry industry where there is exposure to risks from moving items of plant, duty holders must not disregard the instructions set out by a manufacturer concerning modifications to plant.
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing
- Date of offence:
- Amputation of three fingers
- Noosa Magistrates Court
- Mr Rodney J Madsen
- s.32 of the duty under s.19 (1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- 12 month court ordered undertaking per s.239 with a recognisance in the amount of $15 000
- Maximum Penalty:
- $300 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: