The defendant company held a duty under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, operating a scrap metal recycling business, in particular, stripping insulated electrical cables to access the copper wire.
On 9 November 2015, three workers were using a cable stripper machine to strip insulation from cables of various diameter. As the in-feed hole of the guard was not sufficient to accommodate larger diameter wires, a worker removed the guard to enable larger diameter cables to be fed directly through the cutting blades.
While he was operating the machine absent the guard, the managing director and manager of the defendant were in the vicinity but did not have a clear line of sight to the cable stripper. Another worker increased the speed of the machine and as the worker began to feed another cable through it, machine his glove was caught in the in-feed, dragging his left hand into the cutting blades. He sustained crush and amputation injuries to his left hand including amputation to the top of the thumb and first joint of the index finger and fractures to his left index and middle fingers, requiring the insertion of screws in the knuckle joint.
The court heard:
- No formal training was provided on the use of the cable stripper machine.
- Informal training included partnering inexperienced workers with more experienced operators.
- Workers were not shown the manual provided with the machine when it was purchased by the defendant on 26 August 2004. It contained safety warnings regarding the hazards associated with the machine.
- The managing director of the defendant had provided a number of verbal warnings to workers not to remove the guard and/or to use the larger machine for bigger cable.
- No formal action was taken to prevent the practice of removing the guard to enable inappropriate use.
- There were no written procedures on how to operate the machine. At the time of the incident the defendant was in the process of implementing a documented health and safety system, however workers were not given any formal instruction until post-incident. The worker had returned to work with the defendant.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court on 30 August 2017 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 Jeffrey Clarke fined the defendant $40,000 and ordered professional and court costs totaling $1589.40. The court made an order that no conviction be recorded taking into account the defendant's lack of previous convictions and the impact a conviction may have on the ability for the defendant to obtain contracts.
In reaching a decision, the Court in rejected a submission that consideration be given to the duty held by the worker under s.28 of the Act, determining that no blame could be attributed to the worker for removing the guard. He had not received the benefit of formal training and there were no clear or written systems in place for the use of the machine. The Magistrate acknowledged that this was the defendant's first offence in its 28 years of operation and was a good corporate citizen, although queried why it had not been in compliance with the Act during this time. The Magistrate also took into account the defendant's sensible attitude toward safety and its engagement of a consultancy company to implement formal systems both pre-incident at a cost of $90,000 and post-incident with total costs in the range of $200,000.
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 injury from the use of plant that requires guarding, duty holders should apply a risk management approach to eliminate or minimise these risks as far as reasonably practicable, in particular by:
- developing, reviewing and adequately maintaining control measures to ensure guarding on plant is:
- fit for purpose;
- suitable for the nature and duration of the work;
- installed, set up and used correctly prior; and
- not easily removed.
- developing adequate safe systems of work, such as:
- pre-start checks to confirm guarding is in place before operating the machine;
- implementing procedures to ensure guards are replaced after removal.
- regular supervision of workers and inspection of plant while the machine is in operation to ensure the guarding is in place.
- consultation with workers to determine the most appropriate guarding to install on the machine, taking into account the requirements of the work. 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, obligation holders should consider:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Managing risks 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, 0.65 MB)
- Electricity, gas, water and waste services
- Date of offence:
- Amputation and crush injuries to left hand
- Rockhampton Magistrates Court
- Jeffrey Clarke
- s.32 breach of duty held under s.19 Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- $40 000 fine
- Maximum Penalty:
- $1 500 000
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: