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January 2020

Eye injury for unsupervised young worker

WorkSafe v Nepean Builders Pty Ltd (2017)

Facts

On 10 March 2015, an apprentice employed by building company Nepean Builders Pty Ltd, was working at a building site in Somers, Victoria, trimming nails with a reciprocating saw when part of a nail struck him in the left eye. The apprentice was not being supervised in order to ensure he was wearing the necessary protective eyewear while using the saw, despite such eye protection being available on site. The apprentice suffered a penetrating injury of the eye associated with a traumatic cataract, leaving him temporarily blind and requiring surgery.

Judgment

The Court heard that there was a risk of serious injury to workers of being hit in the eye by flying objects while using the saw if not wearing eye protection. The company had failed to implement proper supervision and to ensure eye protection was being worn. The company pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $6,500 and ordered to pay costs of $3,000.

Lessons

In situations where apprentices or workers with limited experience are involved, supervision is a necessary control to avoid risk. The liability of companies will be increased when, due to a lack of supervision, they have failed to implement a well-known and available safety mechanism.

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