The defendant was the manager of a product section within an aluminium production company, and held a duty as a worker under s. 28 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. At the time of the incident the defendant was 71 years of age and had worked at the company for more than 20 years.
A licensed building contractor was contracted by the company to conduct general maintenance works. While at the workplace the defendant asked the contractor to cut sections from three floor racks which were dynabolted to the concrete floor.
The contractor and defendant had a discussion as to how to approach the task, there was no formal risk assessment completed. Using a 9”grinder and 9”disk, the contractor attempted to cut the racks. When this proved unsuccessful, the contractor told the defendant he would need to return the next day with another tool as the grinder was not adequate for the task.
The defendant decided to use a larger disc on the 9” grinder. The contractor retrieved a 14” disc from his toolbox. The guard of the grinder was removed to accommodate the larger disk. The contractor mounted the 14” disc onto the 9” grinder, however, the bore of the disc was larger than the grinder. After some discussion the defendant located two spacers from his office which he put on either side of the blade - tightening the center nut on the grinder shaft with a spanner so that it would put pressure on the blade and centralise it so that it would work on the smaller grinder.
As the contractor started the grinder and went to make a cut, it kicked back and struck the contractor in the face and left arm. He sustained partial amputation and fracture to his arm, and a deep laceration to his forehead.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Ipswich Magistrates Court on 30 May 2016 to breaching s. 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet his work health and safety duties under s.28 and was sentenced.
Magistrate David Shepherd fined the defendant $1000. No conviction was recorded.
Magistrate Shepherd took into account the defendant's age, however identified that due to his level of experience and meritorious work record the defendant should have identified that there would be difficulty using the blade with the grinder and this was a shortcut that lead to serious injuries being sustained by the contractor.
The court observed that the defendant's culpability may be reduced because an experienced and licences building contractor acquiesced in configuring the grinder in a fashion known to create risk.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Shepherd took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation, demonstrated remorse and entered an early plea of guilty.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the manufacturing industry where there is exposure to risks from an unguarded angle grinder, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to ensure the selection of suitable control measures.
Risk management involves identifying the hazards, evaluating the consequences and likelihood of harm that may result from the hazard, deciding and implementing control measures to prevent or minimise the level of the risk from the hazard and monitoring the effectiveness of the control measures to ensure they remain working correctly.
When deciding and implementing control measures associated with the risk of death or serious injury, obligation holders should consider:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Managing risks of plant in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
- Date of offence:
- Partial amputation and fracture to arm, laceration to forehead
- Ipswich Magistrates Court
- David Shepherd
- s.32 breach of a s.28 duty owed under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $1 000
- Maximum Penalty:
- $300 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: