The defendant company held duties under s.19 (1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a business that manufactured and constructed timber roof trusses and wall frames.
On 6 March 2015, a labourer was preparing timber for delivery to a trenching machine. From time to time he was required to use a drop saw to make angle cuts to some of the timber. He positioned his left hand to hold a piece of timber and his right hand operated the saw. As he commenced making the cut, the saw grabbed the timber and his left hand made contact with the spinning blade. The thumb on his left hand was amputated above the top knuckle.
The Workplace Health and Safety investigation revealed the saw was defective and had not been adequately maintained. A moveable guard was faulty and a pin fitted to the hinge of the drop saw was supported on one side only allowing for excessive lateral movement increasing the risk of jamming and kickback.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Caboolture Magistrates Court on 19 April, 2017 to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet its work health and safety duties. Magistrate James Blanch fined the defendant $32 500 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1092.70. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate accepted evidence that the drop saw in, along with other items of plant had been serviced approximately three months earlier by an independent contractor. The business had a regular servicing arrangement with an external provider but had poor record keeping in regards to same. The Court heard the injured worker had been given training and induction in regards to the saw and had experience in its use.
However, the duty holder did not develop adequate risk assessment relating to the plant taking into account the frequency of its use. This was particularly so given workers had complained to management about the condition of the drop saw. The Court found the defendant failed to implement adequate work procedures to include regular inspection, maintenance and reporting of defects in plant and maintaining records of same.
Magistrate Blanch accepted the post -incident remorse by the defendant including having spent over $40 000 on external Occupational Health and Safety accreditors working closely with the company to improve its policies, procedures and training. The defendant also undertook an audit of its equipment and purchased or upgraded where necessary. In deciding penalty, Magistrate Blanch 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.
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 use of plant which may give rise to serious injuries including significant lacerations or amputations, 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 serious injury from the use of drop saws, obligation holders should consider:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
- Managing the Risk of Plant in the Workplace Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
- How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
- Date of offence:
- Left thumb amputated at first knuckle
- Caboolture Magistrates Court
- Magistrate James Blanch
- s.32 of the duty under s.19 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- $1 500 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: