Manufacturer fined after fingers lost in factory

Date: Mar 26, 2012

A food manufacturing firm in Victoria has been fined more than $60,000 after the state’s industrial court found it had been negligent in providing a safe working environment and adequate training in risk management.

According to reports, the accident occurred on 29 June 2010 when a worker began cleaning the rollers on a processing machine as a part of their normal duties.

It is understood that the equipment – used to produce and package health food bars – was not in use at the time of the incident.

However, investigators found that the plant was switched on and the rollers were moving at the same time the victim was located under the production line in order to clean the rollers while they were moving.

On top of this, the court heard that it was a common practice for employees to remove safety guards from the machinery in order to get to areas that were otherwise hard to reach.

As compensation lawyers know, this kind of practice can be seen as failing to provide adequate risk management to employees.

Inevitably, a cleaning cloth being used by the victim was caught between two of the rollers.

The worker attempted to remove the cleaning material from the moving machinery, resulting on one hand coming into contact with the active rollers.

This action saw the victim’s middle finger get caught in the equipment, severing it from the second knuckle.

Under New South Wales law, the company in question could be found responsible for breaching  a number of points under Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000, which relate to the responsibility of employers in relation to ensuring that the plant and processes were “safe and without risks to health”.

As it turns out, the firm pleaded guilty to one count of “failing to provide a safe system of work and proper instruction, training and supervision” in the relevant Victorian legislation.

The magistrate accepted its plea and fined the company $60,000, as well as ordering it to pay relevant court expenses.

Speaking on the court’s findings, acting director of the Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture division at WorkSafe, Mary Chojnacki, explained that keeping guarding in place on heavy equipment was a vital part of risk management.

Ms Chojnacki asserted: “A serious injury and a $60,000 fine could have been prevented if appropriate steps were taken to adequately guard and supervise the machine while it was being cleaned, something that would have cost far less.”

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