Worksafe Victoria v Supreme Caravans Pty Ltd (2017)
Supreme Caravans Pty Ltd (the Company) manufactures and sells caravans. On 28 January 2016, an employee of the Company was cutting a piece of timber using a panel saw machine.
As the worker was sliding the timber towards the blade, the timber moved sideways and the worker’s left hand made contact with the blade. His little finger was severed, and the tendons in the hand were cut and damaged.
The Company pleaded guilty. The Magistrate found there to be an obvious risk of serious injury to workers using the panel saw machine because:
a. there was no safe system of work providing and maintaining that the guard was always lowered over the blade as close as possible to the material being cut, and prior to the cut commencing;
b. there was no system requiring only one piece of wood or material to be cut at any one time;
c. there were no push sticks made available to assist in maintaining distance of an operator’s hand from the blade when cutting material;
d. the safe operating procedure did not include instructions and information on the use of push sticks; and
e. workers were not required to use gloves during the operation of the panel saw.
The Company was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $15,000 and to pay costs of about $4,600.
This case is a clear example of the need for businesses to undertake risk assessments of all machines that they supply for use to their workers. Employers are responsible for eliminating risks in the workplace. In this case, the risk of serious injury caused by the lack of a good system for cutting materials is an obvious one that could be readily fixed.