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Metal fabrication company fined after student partially blinded

26 October, 2016

A Hunter Valley metal fabrication business has been fined $240,000 on appeal after a 15 year old work experience student suffered partial blindness from welding without eye protection.

The Court of Criminal Appeal upheld the Attorney General's appeal against the February 2016 decision of the District Court to dismiss SafeWork NSW's charge for a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act against Tho Services Limited.

The Court imposed a fine of $240,000 against Tho Services for a breach of section 32/19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The charge related to an incident on 11 March 2013 when a 15 year old male year 10 work experience student sustained permanent loss of vision to both eyes as a result of 'flash burn' from welding without eye protection.

SafeWork NSW's investigation found that the work experience student received a visitor's induction and job safety guide for metal fabrication but was given no information or instruction on how to wear and use a manual welding helmet which required the eye protection visor to be manually pulled down over his eyes while welding.

He then spent part of the day welding without the eye protection visor down. He complained of blurred vision at the end of the day and was later diagnosed with permanent loss of vision to both eyes as a result of "flash burn" from welding without eye protection.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy welcomed the Court of Appeal's decision which ensures the business is held to account for the permanent and devastating injuries to the young and vulnerable worker.

"This incident represents a major failure in work health and safety systems in relation to training, instruction and supervision which has left a young worker with devastating, life-long injuries," Dunphy said.

"As a result of the incident, the student was off school for six weeks, required visual aids to assist with school work and can no longer play football or cricket because he cannot see the ball.

"I welcome the Court of Appeal's decision which sends a strong message to the entire business community of the need to provide young, vulnerable workers with appropriate induction and safety training so that tragic incidents like this are not repeated."

During 2011/12 12 per cent of all injuries in NSW workplaces occurred among young workers with 19,561 workplace injuries and seven fatalities.

Further information on young worker safety is available on this website or by calling 13 10 50.

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Chuck Solide | Thursday, October 27, 2016, 3:42 AM
This is indeed a tragic outcome for the young fella, but it raises a bigger question. One assumes that if his work experience involved welding, he was doing some sort of trade course and should have been given rudimentary information at school regarding use of weldng equipment and the dangers of electric arcs etc. . Even if he was at a High School, the Teachers have a duty of care and need to satisfy themselves that the Students are not likely to be put into dangerous situations such as this. Chuck, Melbourne
Rob | Monday, October 31, 2016, 1:38 AM
A tragic outcome indeed, not only for the young bloke but also for the company that was helping him get some 'work experience' The fine of 240k should have been given to the school. Governments have washed their hands of any trade based training (TAFE etc) and now expect small business to take on that basic training role in the guise of 'helping out the youth of today,' but then falling on them like a 'ton of bricks' when an unfortunate accident like this happens. Taking on a 15 yr old student for work experience has no financial benefits for the company involved and would certainly lead to added costs. ($240k in this case) It's a great thing to teach a young person how to do something and watch them learn but at $240,000 if the company has not gone broke then I doubt very much that they would ever give any other young students a go. Our company has just had a work experience student with us for 3wks and it worked ok, but if I had read the above article 3 weeks ago then the work experience would never have happened. .