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January 2020

New worker’s hand crushed in machinery while trying to work faster – unsupervised

New worker’s hand crushed in machinery while trying to work faster – unsupervised

SafeWork NSW v Confeta Pty Limited (2018)

Facts

Confeta Pty Ltd (the Company) manufactured baking products such as baking cups and cake boxes. The Company used a folded cup machine to make the baking cups. Using the folded cup machine required a worker to place a sheet of paper on a die plate, before using a foot pedal to plunge the die into the paper. When in operation, the die plate and die were approximately 200 degrees Celsius.

In August 2012, a new worker was taught how to use the folded cup machine. The worker’s supervisor subsequently taught them an alternative method of using the machine to increase the worker’s speed.

After showing the worker this alternative method, the supervisor left them unsupervised and, while unsupervised, the worker’s hand was caught in the machine and crushed under the die. The worker suffered severe crush and burn injuries, and was discharged from hospital a month later.

Judgment

The District Court found that the Company had failed to undertake numerous steps to identify and minimise the risk of injury to workers, including a failure to:

  • conduct documented or formal risk assessments of the machines;
  • conduct adequate assessments to identify the need for appropriate guarding; ƒprovide workers with personal protective equipment; and
  • provide adequate supervision.

These failures were compounded by the fact that the Company had experienced two similar injuries in the years prior to this incident.

The District Court imposed fines of $150,000 (reduced from $200,000 to reflect a plea of guilty) and $3,750 for a failure to notify SafeWork NSW of the incident.

The Managing Director also pleaded guilty and received a fine of $25,500.

Lessons

Employers must ensure they are conducting detailed risk assessments of their workplaces, especially in relation to high-risk machinery. Whenever a risk is identified, you must take all reasonable steps to eliminate, or minimise, the risk of an injury eventuating. This would include providing preventative measures (such as guarding) and protective measures (such as personal protective equipment).

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