Vic recycler convicted and fined $150,000 after worker loses hand
A recycling company has been convicted and fined a total of $150,000 following an incident in Coolaroo, Victoria in 2014 in which a worker lost his right hand in an aluminium bailer.
SKM Services Pty Ltd was found guilty in the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on two charges of failing to provide or maintain plant that was safe and without risk to health, and one charge of failing to provide a safe system of work.
The company was also ordered to pay $45,000 in costs.
During the hearing, the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court was told that the worker was moving a bale of cans from the exit point of an aluminium bailing machine when his right hand was severed.
A co-worker heard the victim’s cries and subsequently located the hand in the chamber of the bailer.
The Court heard that the bailer was designed to crush metal into large blocks, which were then forcibly ejected from the machine through a hydraulically operated exit door. Expert witnesses told the court that employees working in and around the exit door risked crush or shear injuries.
Following the incident, a WorkSafe investigation discovered that a steel can bailing machine on the site also posed similar risks to employees.
The Court also heard that the investigation discovered the company had no safe system of work for employees to secure the metal blocks once they had been ejected from either bailer.
During the five-day contested hearing, SKM argued that it had discharged its health and safety duties by ensuring the manufacturer of the bailing machines had the appropriate assurance certificates and assessments in place.
However, Magistrate Aumair was ultimately satisfied that it was not reasonable for SKM to solely rely on information from suppliers and that it was reasonably practicable to take further measures to reduce the health and safety risks to its employees.
On the one charge relating to the aluminium bailer, SKM was fined $75,000. On the one charge relating to the steel bailer, it was fined $25,000. Finally, on the one charge of failing to provide a safe system of work in relation to handling the bales, it was fined $50,000. SKM was convicted on all three charges.
WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said employers should never rely on others to ensure the safety of their workers.
"Employers must do whatever they can to ensure the safety of their workers,” Williams said. "To abrogate their responsibility to others is a clear failure and, as this case has shown, risks severe consequences and penalties.
"A worker who expected to get home safely at the end of the day has been maimed for life.”
Williams said employers had to be proactive, as far as was reasonably practicable. "The best employers work with their employees to understand workplace risks and deal with them without delay.”
Safety tips when working with machinery:
- Check the machine for general hazards and ensure it has been maintained
- Make sure the machinery is properly guarded and safety interlocks are regularly checked before operating
- All warning lights and alarms must be checked to ensure they are working
- All workers and supervisors must be trained appropriately on how to operate the machine, identify when it’s not safe to use and know the procedure for emergency shut down
- Workers should tie their hair back and not wear loose fitting clothing, to prevent entanglement.
For more information about safety around heavy machinery, go to www.worksafe.vic.gov.au