The defendant held a duty under s.28 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being a worker engaged as an Operations Manager of a company producing extruded rigid plastic sheet products. The company's extrusion plant is located in Brisbane, with global offices worldwide. The defendant reported to the Chief Executive of the company.
On 6 May 2015, a worker sustained de-gloving, crushing and multiple amputation injuries after both hands became caught and were drawn between the rollers of a large industrial plastic extrusion machine. The defendant authorised workers to bypass a malfunctioning light curtain on the machine. When operating correctly it ensured workers' hands could not become caught in the rollers of the machine as it caused the machine to stop operating and the rollers to open once the light beam was interrupted. The bypassing of the light curtain permitted manufacturing work to continue on the machine.
Workers were required, as part of their daily start-up duties on the machine, to hand feed the plastic film up between the rollers before it was operational. Due to the light curtain not being viable, the machine could be started when workers' hands were within the 'draw-in / crush' zone. This is what occurred when the machine operator started the machine whilst the worker's hands were between the rollers.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Richlands Magistrates Court on 16 November 2017, to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet his work health and safety duty and was sentenced.
Magistrate Matthew McLaughlin fined him $20,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $2091.55. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded as it was the defendant's first offence and that he had information before him that a conviction may impact the defendant's planned overseas travel.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate noted that the defendant had instructed workers to place signs on the machine alerting that the light curtain had been bypassed. The court accepted that this was inadequate when one took in to account the hierarchy of control and that engineering controls are preferred to 'administrative controls'. His Honour accepted that the machine should have been removed from service until it repaired and that the company had in place written work procedures stating just that. This instruction was not complied with by the defendant.
His Honour found that the risk from the rollers on the machine was an obvious hazard, and foreseeable. His Honour acknowledged however that the defendant was not solely to blame as the machine had a bypass key installed on its operating panel that permitted the light curtain to be switched off. Some blame might fall on the company which owned the machine for having this feature installed. The Court also referred to the Victim Impact Statements provided by the injured worker and his wife.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate McLaughlin took into account the defendant had co-operated with the investigation and entered a timely plea of guilty. His Honour further observed that there had not been any information placed before him by the defence on the defendant's capacity to pay and that this was not a factor that he was required to further consider.
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 unguarded plant, 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 including degloving, crushing and multiple amputation, obligation holders should consider:
- Date of offence:
- Degloving, multiple fracture and multiple amputation injuries to both hands.
- Richlands Magistrates Court
- Magistrate Matthew McLaughlin
- s.32 of the duty held under s.28 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $20,000 fine
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: