Inspection programme to ensure machines are guarded

31 January, 2006

Concerns about the number of workplace injuries involving unguarded machinery have prompted WorkSafe to launch a targeted inspection programme to check on machine guarding.

Department of Consumer and Employment Protection

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne said today that inspectors were still finding examples of inadequate or no guarding of machinery on a regular basis.

“There have been five court cases this year involving the prosecution of employers for failing to ensure machinery was adequately guarded,” Lyhne said.

“One of these cases resulted in an employee having four fingers amputated, but there have been many far more serious injuries and deaths resulting from employees having clothing or body parts drawn into unguarded moving machinery parts.

“WorkSafe inspectors have investigated a worrying number of amputations and hand injuries, particularly in the metal and woodworking industries and in the food manufacturing sector.

“The inspectors have also reported growing concern at the number of young workers being seriously injured, often within only hours of starting a new job that required them to operate machinery.”

The targeted inspection program began last month, and will continue until the end of the year.  Inspectors will be checking on guarding wherever they come across machinery in a workplace, regardless of the reason for their visit to that workplace.

Manufacturers of machinery are legally required to make sure that plant and machinery is designed in such a way that operators are protected from injury, and employers and operators have a duty to ensure guards and other safety devices are maintained when machinery is being operated.

“WorkSafe inspectors will be focusing on guards, as well as training and supervision of employees operating machinery,” Lyhne said.

“Where machinery is found to be inadequately guarded, inspectors will take the necessary enforcement action.

“It is absolutely crucial that machinery is adequately guarded, and inspectors will be coming down hard on employers who do not provide a safe workplace by ensuring that this is done.

“Guarding is one of the most obvious means of minimising the risk of injury to machinery operators, and it has been required by occupational safety and health legislation for a long time.

“It really is not acceptable to expose workers to the risk of serious injury when we have known how to guard machinery effectively for decades.

“We need to put a stop to the workplace culture that says working without guards is OK, and make it understood that guards are there for good reason and should not be removed just to save time.”