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Australian timber company fined over docking saw incident, employee’s finger amputated

Posted by Robert O'Neill on Jun 25, 2013 2:33:22 AM
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1_docking sawImproved Timber Pty Ltd of Mt Gambier, South Australia was convicted by the Industrial Court and fined $28,000 plus legal costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 19 of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986.

On 16 February of last year, a 28-year-old employee of Improved Timber was operating a docking saw under supervision. He was holding a timber in place when the blade caught his hand, which resulted to partial amputation of his left index finger. The employee needed ten weeks off work for recovery.

SafeWork SA prosecuted the company under Section 19 of the said Act for failing to ensure that the machinery was in safe condition for workers. Improved Timber failed to check if either the saw was fitted with a two handed control system or if the blade was protected by a fixed or interlocked guard.

Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke said the accident could have been avoided if there had been a guard over the saw or if there had been other operational controls. According to Lieschke, the offence was easily preventable, which resulted from a casual and complacent approach by Improved Timber to its most basic safety obligations.

Although he was satisfied that Improve Timber will not repeat the breach of Act in the same manner, Magistrate Lieschke and the Industrial Court still decided that it is only appropriate to penalize them to serve as a general deterrent for other companies.

Improved Timber faced a maximum penalty of $300,000 but the Industrial Court recorded a conviction and imposed a total penalty of $35,000. Since Improved Timber pleaded guilty and were committed with SafeWork SA on the statement of responsibility and contrition, the Industrial Court granted a 20 percent discount, decreasing the penalty to $28,000 instead.

Magistrate Lieschke affirmed that Improved Timber made necessary actions to avoid another bad incident. They installed a guard and other controls since the incident. Improved Timber has confirmed that their operators are no longer at risk for injury.

Bryan Russell, Executive Director of SafeWork SA, brought a reminder to all employers to carry out hazard and risk assessments on all their machineries and tasks. He supported the decision made by the Industrial Court because it will keep all employers to be more careful of their duties, and to be more preventive for their workers to suffer injuries.

Topics: Prosecutions, Blog