A 20-year old apprentice boiler maker employed by the defendant, was using an angle grinder with a multi-cutter saw blade attached to cut aluminium piping. The grinder 'kicked back', striking the apprentice, resulting in partial amputation injuries to his left hand and lacerations to his leg and knee.
Multi-cutter blades were authorised to be purchased and fitted to the defendant company's grinders to facilitate work. The defendant approached both retail and trade suppliers to source the blades. Fitting such blades contravened the grinder manufacturer's instruction manual. The blades were not adequately guarded with a full, spring tensioned retractable guard.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Richlands Magistrates Court on 9 June 2016 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 Russell Warfield fined the defendant $40,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $1086.40. No conviction was recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate determined that the defendant company brought the hazard into existence, and was to blame for this offence. Although the defendant relied on the advice of others it did not read the manual for the grinder, which stated saw blades should not be used, identifying the risk of 'kick back'.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Warfield did not record a conviction taking into account the defendant had entered an early plea of guilty, was a good corporate citizen, had no previous convictions for any work health and safety breach, had immediately notified WHSQ of the incident, had assisted the injured worker to remain in employment and ceased using the multi-cutter blades.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in industries where there is exposure to risks from cutting tools or modified tools, duty holders should identify any hazards that arose after alterations to the angle grinder were made.
In this particular case, the angle grinder should have been fitted with full spring loaded guard before use. A risk assessment should have been conducted to address the specific risks associated with its use on the intended materials.
Suitable control measures should ensure:
- all options are explored for safely fulfilling the work (a specific purpose tool)
- any modifications fit within the guidelines given by the original manufacturer.
- a full risk assessment is completed before use
- workers are advised of any modifications and are suitably trained
- all tasks are supervised or completed by suitably qualified and experienced workers.
- Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace Code of Practice 2013 (PDF, 1.04 MB)
- Children and Young Workers Code of Practice 2006 (PDF, 0.42 MB)
- How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2011 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
- Date of offence:
- Partial amputation to hand
- Richlands Magistrates Court
- Mr Russell Warfield
- s.32 of the duty under s.19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: