The importance of training and supervision was highlighted recently when a SEQ flooring company was fined $50,000 over an incident in which a young labourer suffered serious injuries when his hand became caught in a portable mixer.
The company pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to failing to comply with its health and safety duties and exposing a worker to a risk of death or serious injury.
The court heard the family-owned flooring company should have provided adequate instruction, training and supervision on using the mixer; provided information to workers on its hazards (the manufacturer’s instructions); and ensured workers followed the instructions specifically to keep hands and objects clear while the machine was operating.
The court heard that the defendant supplied seamless resin flooring and had been subcontracted to lay an epoxy floor in a commercial business. The company had engaged a labour hire company who provided an 18-year-old labourer with three years construction industry experience.
A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found that on 16 November 2017, the labourer attended the workplace and signed a safe work method statement (SWMS) before being supervised by another employee, who provided safety information on mixing resin and chemicals. The worker was trained in the use of the Hippo mixer, an 85-litre portable mixer, and was instructed to scrape down the sides of the mixer using a steel rod, although it is unclear whether he was told to do so while the mixer was on or off.
The labourer mixed 20-30 batches of resin throughout the course of the day, scraping the machine’s sides while it was operational. The steel rod became caught in the machine’s mixing blade and pulled the labourer’s hand in, fracturing his left wrist and finger, and causing soft tissue injuries.
In sentencing, Magistrate Judith Daley took into account the defendant’s lack of prior convictions, its cooperation with the investigation and the guilty plea. Her Honour accepted that some training was given to the injured worker but commented that it was not adequate, noting that the SWMS related to safe handling of chemicals required for resin mixing rather than use of the Hippo mixer.
Magistrate Daley observed the injured worker was not checked on throughout the day, having carried out 20-30 mixes without turning off the Hippo mixer. She also commented that general deterrence looms large in sentencing matters of this type.
The court noted that the company was a family company that had traded for 40 years, had not been convicted of any other WHS breaches, and had implemented significant changes post-incident, including no longer using the Hippo mixer.
The company was fined $50,000 and ordered to pay costs of $2846.
Read more prosecutions at owhsp.qld.gov.au