Fingers lost after shoddy safety planning

By Andrew Hobbs on October 10th, 2017

A SOUTH Australian garage builder has been convicted and fined $99,000 after a worker lost two fingers on his dominant hand in a “readily foreseeable” accident.

Roto-Forma pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to comply with its duty to provide a safe workplace under the Work Health and Safety Act (2012) in South Australia.

The worker lost the middle and ring fingers and the tips of his index and little fingers on his right hand after a support arm on a guillotine machine lowered unexpectedly on top of his hand as he was tying to clear a blockage on the machine.

South Australian Employment Tribunal Deputy President Lieschke heard the guillotine stacker arms could lower unexpectedly when the plant was switched off, noting the design of the pneumatic actuators that lifted or lowered them had no way of discharging stored pneumatic energy.

He also heard that the injured worker was the most experienced operator of the guillotine at the time the incident occurred, but had never been given written instructions or a manual on its operation.

“To introduce a large powered machine with various moving parts without completing any structured risk assessment and with only brief verbal instructions given to operators defies common sense and the law,” Deputy President Lieschke said.

Rota-Forma should have identified the risk of the arms moving due to a loss of air pressure or electrical isolation in a hazard identification and risk assessment, he said.

“Rota-Forma’s very poor informal approach to the safety aspects of this large machine used for core production has resulted in a serious breach of fundamental safety obligations,” he said.

The company has since installed guards over hazardous openings around the machine and linked the emergency stop function of the machine’s electrical controls with its pneumatic controls. It has also implemented competency checklists for all machines at its factories, completed 72 new risk assessments and developed corresponding safe operating procedures for them all.

Deputy President Stephen Lieschke issued the $99,000 fine after applying a 40% discount for the company’s early guilty plea.

He noted the worker was still employed by the company on a full-time basis, albeit with limited duties, and that the company had paid him an additional $10,000 in recognition of losses not covered by the workers’ compensation system.

Helping develop your safety plan

In this instance, Rota-Forma’s failure to develop a thorough safety plan for all its pieces of machinery led to a serious accident, a costly fine and a conviction.

Developing a thorough safety plan through consultation with your workforce and, where necessary, external advisory groups is important for any workplace – but knowing where to start can be challenging.

The Health & Safety Handbook contains the information you need to help you fulfil these duties.

Helpful chapters include:

  • H1 Hazard Identification
  • P3 Plant Safety Management
  • R3 Risk Assessment
  • S1 Safe Operating Procedures
  • S5 Supervision of Safe Work

All 70-plus chapters are written in plain English by the health and safety lawyers at Holding Redlich and cover the A-Z of workplace health and safety.

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