The defendant company held duties under s.19 (1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 being an operator of a sawmill. It engaged workers to operate plant, in particular, a planer used to process rough sawn cypress pine into dressed timber.
On 7 June 2016, two workers were operating the Weinig planer when a piece of timber became jammed between the 2nd and 3rd roller. One worker lifted the side panel of the machine to locate the problem. With the machine still in operation, the worker turned to pick up the air hose to blow away wood shavings. As he turned, the other worker reached into the machine putting his hand in the vicinity of the lubrication valve. His hand contacted the feeder rollers dragging it into the cutting blades. He sustained amputation injuries to four fingers and two thirds of his right hand.
The machine was fitted with an interlock switch but it was not functional. Had it been working correctly, power to the machine would have been cut at the point that the workers opened the cover to check for the blockage. There was no guarding in place over the cutting blades.
On 12 July 2018, the defendant pleaded guilty in the Roma 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 James Blanch fined the defendant $50,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $842.55. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
The court heard that all training and induction in respect to the planer and safety was delivered verbally and not recorded. There were no safe work systems documented in relation to clearing jams in the machine, no risk assessments had been conducted on the planer and no records were kept in relation to maintenance of the machine.
Magistrate Blanch accepted that the training provided was inadequate, however recognised that the injured worker was not the usual operator of the machine. His role was to assist the planer operator. While taking into account the seriousness of the breach and the significant injuries sustained by the injured worker, the court also acknowledged that the injured worker had returned to work with the support of the defendant company and has continued his employment with the company performing alternate duties.
In deciding penalty, the Magistrate took into account that the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered a plea of guilty at the return of the summons.
His Honour also acknowledged other mitigating factors, including -
- The defendant company was the largest employer in the town. His Honour recognised any fine on a regional small business employing 15 locals, would have significant impact.
- The defendant's director is friends with the injured worker, socialising regularly outside work, he felt a great deal of remorse for what occurred.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When working in the Forestry industry where there is exposure to risks from contact with the moving parts of plant and causing amputation injuries, duty holders should consider the following:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Managing Risks of Plant Code of Practice 2013 (PDF, 1.57 MB), relevantly;
- Part 3.3 which outlines the requirement for persons conducting a business or undertaking to provide the necessary information, training, instruction, and supervision to protect workers from the risks associated with the use of the plant;
- Part 3.6 details the expectations of a duty holder's maintenance system, including regular inspection of plant to ensure control measures implemented remain effective; and
- Part 4 details specific control measures to manage the risk of plant, in particular part 4.1 which provides an overview of types of guarding and the specific requirements for each guarding type.
- How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2021 (PDF, 1.02 MB) which details appropriate risk management strategies to address hazards in the workplace.
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing
- Date of offence:
- Amputation injuries to four fingers and two thirds of right hand
- Roma Magistrates Court
- James Blanch
- s.32 of the duty under s.19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: