Reviewing plant safety mechanisms can save you a world of pain
WorkSafe Victoria v Ausprinters Pty Ltd (2019)
Ausprinters Pty Ltd (Ausprinters) was a commercial printing company involved in printing labels used for commercial food packaging. An employee of Ausprinters was setting up a large-scale printing machine in preparation for a printing job when their arm was dragged into the machinery, causing it to be trapped. The machine consequently needed to be dismantled to free the employee’s arm. The employee suffered serious injuries and required multiple surgeries as a result of the incident.
The Magistrate’s Court found that the required safety systems for the printing machine were incapable of controlling the risks involved with using the plant. The Magistrate’s Court accepted that there had been, at one point, safety systems in place but these systems had now been bypassed, were missing or no longer effective, including:
- panel doors preventing access to the printer were absent and there were numerous unsafe access points;
- the interlock systems that should have prevented unsafe operation had been bypassed; and
- there were safety ‘emergency stop’ lanyards missing.
The Magistrate’s Court determined that the injured employee was provided with insufficient training and information to operate the machine safely as they did not know where the danger areas on the machine were located or how to operate the machine without placing parts of their body inside.
Ausprinters was fined $40,000 and ordered to pay costs of $6,032.
This decision is an example of the dangerous consequences resulting from employers not regularly reviewing the safety mechanisms of their plant. The printing machine had been operating unsafely for some time prior to the incident and it was only after the worker was injured that the employer removed these risks. Therefore, routinely checking plant and equipment to make sure they are safe and free of risk needs to be undertaken to avoid injuries.
In addition to actively reviewing equipment, providing workers with appropriate training and education is necessary to limit risk and avoid injuries, as is encouraging your workers to report hazards and risks.
Please note: Case law is reported as correct and current at time of publishing. Be aware that cases in lower courts may be appealed and decisions subsequently overturned.
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