1 min read

Significant penalty for failure to undertake simple steps to guard machine

The Case

SafeWork NSW v Epic Machinery Pty Ltd (2021)

Epic Machinery Pty Ltd (Epic) conducts a business that involves the manufacture, sale and refurbishment of sheet metal manufacturing equipment, and provides general metal engineering services.

On 17 August 2018, a worker was using a metal-cutting machine to cut sheet metal. He turned around to locate the foot pedal and as he turned back to the machine, the machine activated. The ram and blade then descended, crushing four fingers on his right hand and the tips of the first and second fingers on his left hand.

At the time of the incident, the machine had been undergoing some repairs, but it was never completely taken out of operation.

The Verdict

The Court found that Epic failed to undertake simple steps that would have involved little effort and minimal cost by guarding the guillotine. Further, Epic failed to prepare and implement procedures to ensure the guillotine was isolated and locked out from the electricity supply when guarding was removed or not otherwise in place.

Epic pleaded guilty to breaching section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW) in exposing the worker to the risk of suffering serious injury or death. Epic was ordered to pay a fine of $150,000 following a 25% reduction for entering a guilty plea. Epic was also ordered to pay the prosecutor’s costs.

The Lessons

Unguarded machines present a clear and foreseeable risk. All businesses must ensure that machines are adequately guarded with effective isolation and lock-out procedures. Businesses should also undertake audits to identify any breaches of the system.

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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