A risk assessment would have avoided this tragedy

By Michael Selinger on March 9th, 2018
  1. Risk Management
  2. Fire, Emergency & Incidents
  3. Risk Assessment
  4. First aid in the workplace


The importance of effective audits and risk assessments was again highlighted in a recent matter before the courts in Tasmania. The ABC reported this week that bakery Cripps NuBake pleaded guilty to a Category 2 offence under the harmonised Work Health & Safety Act in relation to an incident involving an amputation.

The case involved a worker who lost the top part of his middle finger in 2015 when clearing by hand a build-up of crumpets from a conveyor built. The worker had only been employed at the bakery for six weeks.

The business had designed a metal plate that was fitted to the crumpet-making machine in order to meet supermarket demands for a different-shaped crumpet.

The business did not undertake a risk assessment of the machine once the modification was in place. If this step had been taken, it would have likely identified the potential risk of an operator having their hand caught in a nip point created by the modification.

On the day of the incident, the worker was directed to clear a blockage of crumpets while the crumpets were still coming out of the oven. As he was undertaking this task, his finger got stuck in the metal plate and he suffered an amputation.

Failure to follow own safety policies

The Court heard that the company, which had a prior record involving another worker’s fingers being amputated in 2008, did not follow its own safety procedures. Those procedures required a risk assessment at the time the metal plate was installed. Two further safety audits also did not detect the potential risk of injury.

The incident highlights the dangers posed by modifications to plant, but more generally demonstrates the importance of undertaking effective risk assessments.

Although not a focus of these proceedings, the case also raises the issue of the duty of designers of plant to ensure that any potential risks, such as nip points, are designed out as far as possible.

Finally, there is also the issue of effective safety audits – it is important that these are not just tick and flick, but that risk-based audits are also undertaken to ensure that current controls are effective and to also identify any potential uncontrolled risks.

As you can see, it is so important that, as a business-owner, you know how to assess the level of risk associated with hazards you have identified in your workplace and, based on that assessment, know how to determine urgency when implementing risk controls.

The Health & Safety Handbook has a number of chapters aimed at helping you in this very situation.

These chapters include:

  • D4 Duties of Employers
  • H1 Hazard Identification
  • H6 Hierarchy of Control
  • R3 Risk Assessment
  • S5 Supervision of Safe Work

These are just a handful of the more than 70 chapters contained in the Handbook that cover the A-Z of workplace safety – all written in plain English by the legal experts at Holding Redlich.

Don’t delay in ordering your copy. Without knowing how to conduct a proper risk assessment, who knows what potential trouble lies ahead.


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