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January 2020

Worker loses hand in saw mill accident

Worker loses hand in saw mill accident

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland v E229138 (the Company) (2018)

Facts

The Company engages workers to operate plant, in this case, a sawmill.

Two of the Company’s workers were operating a planer when a piece of wood became jammed. The workers attempted to fix the problem while the machine was still in operation. One of the workers’ hands made contact with the feeder rollers, dragging it into the cutting blades. The worker lost four fingers and two-thirds of his right hand.

The Company had failed to record safety training in relation to the operation of the planer and no safe work systems outlined the method to clear jams in the machine.

The Company had not conducted risk assessments and no records were found in relation to the maintenance of the machine.

Judgment

The Company entered a guilty plea and was found in breach of section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) for failure to comply with a health and safety duty, exposing a worker to risk of death or serious injury or illness.

The Magistrate acknowledged that the Company had not been previously prosecuted for work health and safety issues, and was a regional, tight-knit, small business employing 15 locals. In light of this, the Company was not convicted and the penalty for the offence was significantly reduced.

The Roma Magistrates Court fined the company $50,000 plus costs of $842.55.

Lessons

Always keep records of training and safety procedures dealing with issues of machine malfunction. It is also important to ensure that all machines are regularly serviced and that this is documented.

It is also a reminder to be vigilant with health and safety requirements. You should always prepare a detailed risk assessment. You should put in place adequate training and safety measures to mitigate exposure to any risk that may arise at a workplace.

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