The defendant company held duties under s.19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The business undertook the acquisition, packing and delivery of timber primarily to the construction industry.
On 7 October 2015 a 19-year-old worker had a thumb and 3 fingers on his left hand amputated whilst using a docking saw. He had been given an induction and had been supervised for a period using the saw by other experienced staff and was considered competent in its use. An external audit conducted 3 months prior to the incident identified the plant had some guards missing and recommended urgent replacement. The audit results were discussed during a safety committee meeting, but failed to be implemented.
On 4 December 2018, the defendant pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court 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 Nunan fined the defendant $60,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1596.15. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate received an affidavit from the injured worker, who is the son of the general manager. The worker has since had his fingers reattached and continues to work for the company, albeit in a different capacity. He was unable to articulate exactly how his fingers contacted the plant and asserts that the absence of the guards would not have made any difference to the outcome.
The prosecution asserted that had the defendant conducted or caused to be conducted effective tag out procedures and pre-start inspections the plant would have been decommissioned and the hazard removed. The risk assessment was inadequate given the increased risk of injury due to the lack of guarding. Use of the plant in the state that it was, by a relatively inexperienced worker, also escalated the risks.
In deciding penalty, Magistrate Nunan noted the early plea of guilty, a relatively small business with 15 employees, the manufacture of timber was not the principle business or undertaking and the defendant had systems in place for induction, training and supervision. The defendant had not been previously prosecuted for any work health and safety breach and co-operated with the investigation.
The Magistrate reaffirmed the proposition from earlier cases that “persons conducting a business or undertaking need to be aware that young workers often are anxious to please employers and can take risks. Employers need to guard against that. “
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
Log saw milling and the timber processing industry can be hazardous because of the type of plant and equipment used to process logs into sawn timber. Hazards such as cutting, crushing, shearing, entanglement, entrapment, impact and puncturing can be controlled by making sure that guards are correctly designed, fitted and maintained.
Workers have a duty to report any unguarded plant or equipment to their supervisors, and management must ensure guards are designed, fitted, maintained and safe. As well as having effective guarding in place, safe work processes need to be developed, and appropriate training provided for staff to perform their job safely.
- Wholesale trade
- Date of offence:
- Amputation of thumb and three fingers
- Brisbane Magistrates Court
- Magistrates Noel Nunan
- s.32 of the duty under s19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: