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August 2021

Company is fined $36,500 after incident at a sawmill

Company is fined $36,500 after incident at a sawmill

The Case

WorkSafe Victoria v A2C International Trade Pty Ltd (2021)

A2C International Trade Pty Ltd (A2C) operates a sawmill that employs several workers. The sawmill uses a variety of heavy machines to sort, mill and stack wood chips and logs.

In January 2019, an employee was strapping bundles of timber together on the stacking table and quality testing the timber. While undertaking this task, the employee reached over the conveyor line to grab a piece of timber. When doing so, he lost his grip and attempted to steady himself when his right glove got caught in some moving cogs on the stacking table. His hand became stuck and was not freed until 2 minutes later when another worker helped him. The employee received urgent medical attention and parts of his fingers had to be amputated after multiple surgeries. The incident was captured on CCTV footage.

The Judgement

The Court heard that following the incident, a WorkSafe inspector issued an improvement notice regarding inadequate guarding on the stacking table that left the machinery too exposed. An additional improvement notice was also issued for supervision of workers. A2C installed new safeguards on the machines and issued a new safety procedure.

A2C was charged under sections 21(1) and 21(1)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic), and pleaded guilty. The company was fined $36,500 and ordered to pay costs of $2,051.66.

The Court accepted the following factors when sentencing:

  • A2C pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, and had no prior offences;
  • A2C was of previous good character;
  • the injured worker had returned to full duties and remained a valued worker at the sawmill;
  • A2C had previously engaged a third party to provide specialist safety advice and had adopted a suite of subsequent safety improvements at the workplace; and
  • A2C was operating at a loss since starting 2 years before the incident due to costs associated with the start-up of the business, but it continued to support the local community.

The Lessons

The risk of entrapment in moving parts of machinery is a well-known and foreseeable risk that must be eliminated through guarding. Supervision of work practices is critical as well to ensure that the safety systems are not bypassed, and that work is performed in accordance with the safe operating procedures.

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