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Recycler fined $160,000 after worker loses fingers


18 April 2019

An easily preventable accident and the removal of a safety guard that would have prevented a worker from having his fingers crushed, were two contributing factors considered by a Gold Coast Magistrate as he fined a recycler a hefty $160,000.

The defendant pleaded guilty to a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and was ordered to pay professional costs.

A 31-year old worker was assisting another employee clear a blockage of newspapers on a waste baling machine at a recycling plant on the Gold Coast.

When the co-worker restarted the baler, the victim was resting a hand on top of the baler gate. Three fingers on his left hand were crushed, requiring partial amputation and five months off work.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) investigation found a section of the baler designed to guard and prevent access to the area where the worker sustained his injuries had been removed some time prior to the incident.

The recycler had some policies and procedures in place including a written process to manage change which required a fresh risk assessment of the plant be conducted when items are modified. The worker had also been inducted and trained in guarding and risk assessment.

In sentencing, the Court found a foreseeable risk of injury following the removal of the guarding, and that steps to minimize or remove the risk were not burdensome or costly. It acknowledged that the defendant has previous historic work health and safety convictions in other jurisdictions.

The Magistrate acknowledged the early plea of guilty and the post incident actions of the defendant to remove the hazard.

He noted the company was remorseful and had supported the worker since the incident. The Magistrate also noted that the incident could have easily been preventable.

The company was fined $160,000. Professional and court costs of $1596.15 were also ordered however no conviction was recorded.

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