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Health and safety breach costs young student his eyesight

A New South Wales company was hit with a $240,000 fine in 2016 when it failed to properly induct and supervise a 15-year-old boy on work experience.

The Year 10 school student lost 75% of his vision in both of his eyes after welding without a safety visor.

He had some previous experience welding at school using a helmet with a visor that automatically darkened to protect against the extremely bright light. However, the helmet he was provided with on his placement used a separate visor that had to be lowered to cover the eyes.

The leading hand responsible for supervising the student failed to advise him that the visor had to be down while welding to avoid eye damage. Also, he and the other staff had neglected to notice that the boy had been welding for up to five hours with the visor up.

When the student complained that his vision had become blurry from the welding lights, the supervisor then inspected the helmet and visor and said that they were fine and to continue using them.

The following day, the boy was still unable to see properly and was referred to an eye surgeon who then diagnosed thermal burn damage to both of his eyes.

In the Supreme Court hearing the judge stated: “The victim was young and otherwise vulnerable. The injuries sustained by him were permanent and presumably devastating. The respondent wholly disregarded his safety over an extended period. In that context, the injuries sustained were the direct result of a continuing failure by the respondent’s employees to appreciate what was occurring and were not the result of an occasional act of negligence or momentary inattention.

“The breaches represent a systemic failure of all protocols and induction procedures that were formulated to prevent injury.”

The maximum penalty for this type of offence is $1.5 million.

For providing an early guilty plea, Tho Services Ltd (now liquidated) received a 25% discount and was fined $240,000.

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