The defendant company was involved in recycling paper, cardboard, glass, steel, plastics and aluminium. It held duties under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
As part of its operations the defendant purchased a Godswill Plastics Baling machine (the baler). The baler was fully automated and designed to compress paper and plastic into bales. A hydraulic arm would compress the material which was then wrapped in wire and pushed out onto a roll out section. The roll out section comprised a set of motorised rollers which assisted in moving the bale out of the exit gate area of the baler in readiness for collection by a forklift. The roll out section fully encased the exit door area and when insitu prevented access by workers.
Several labour hire workers were employed at the defendant's workplace. On 8 July 2016 one of these workers was assisting another worker clear a blockage of newspapers near the discharge door of the baler. His gloved left hand was resting on top of the Baler gate when the co-worker recommenced operation of the baler. Three fingers on the worker's left hand were crushed, and he required partial amputations which kept him off work for approximately five months. He returned to work on limited duties but later resigned.
An investigation found that the roll out section of the baler had been removed some time prior to the incident. It was unable to be established when, by whom and for how long prior to the incident that part of the plant had been missing. One of its functions was to act as a guard and prevent access to the area where the worker sustained his injuries. The defendant had some policies and procedures in place, including a written management of change process which required a fresh risk assessment of plant to be conducted when items are modified. The worker had been inducted and trained in guarding, lock out and tag and risk assessment procedures.
On 10 April 2019 the defendant pleaded guilty in the Southport 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 Finger fined the defendant $160,000 and ordered professional and court costs totalling $1,596.15. The court ordered that no conviction be recorded.
In reaching a decision, the Magistrate identified that the risk of injury following the removal of part of plant which acted as a form of guarding was foreseeable and the steps to minimise or remove the risk were not burdensome or costly.
The Court acknowledged this defendant had previous OHS convictions in other jurisdictions, together with two under the former Queensland legislation, albeit most of them quite dated. The Court took this into account when considering what penalty to apply.
Magistrate Finger acknowledged the defendant's early plea of guilty and significant post incident measures. He noted the company had shown significant remorse and had supported the worker in many ways since the incident.
Considerations for prevention
(commentary under this heading is not part of the court's decision)
When deciding on and implementing control measures associated with the risk of access to moving parts of plant, duty holders should determine the type of guarding necessary, and put in place safe work processes to eliminate exposure to any moving parts. It is also recommended that operators of plant be trained and competency tested to demonstrate safe use and operation of plant.
- 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)
- Date of offence:
- Crush injuries to left hand resulting in partial amputations to left and middle fingers to second knuckle and removal of the ring finger to first knuckle
- Southport Magistrates Court
- Magistrate Finger
- s.32,19(1) Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Decision date:
- Maximum Penalty:
- Conviction recorded:
- CIS event number: