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Company fined $50,000 after apprentice suffers groin laceration from grinder

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Date: 
Wednesday, 8 June, 2022 - 12:45
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Queensland

A Brisbane steel fabrication company has been fined $50,000 over an incident in October 2020 which left a third-year apprentice boilermaker with serious groin lacerations.

The company specialises in metalwork and steel fabrication, and at the time, a third-year apprentice boilermaker had received training on how to use grinders, including where to stand in case of kick-back.

On 6 October 2020, the apprentice was cutting the flange off a section of 200mm mild steel universal beam with a grinder. He then started cleaning the mill scale from the end of the universal beam.

He hadn’t been asked to do this but thought it needed to be done for the required finish and used a 7-inch Metabo angle grinder with a wire wheel attachment. The young worker hadn’t done this before while working for the company but had performed similar tasks with a previous employer.

He wore a face shield, safety glasses, long sleeve clothing and hearing protection. However, the apprentice wasn’t wearing a leather apron and hadn’t been instructed to wear one.

After about 5 to 10 minutes, the grinder grabbed the steel and ricocheted it back towards him. The wire wheel attachment caught in his trousers and embedded in his groin, causing a bad laceration. He was taken to hospital, where the grinder and wire brush attachment were surgically removed, and the laceration mended.

In sentencing, Acting Magistrate Leanne Scoines noted the defendant was being prosecuted under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, which has a primary purpose to protect the health and safety of workers. Acting Magistrate Scoines took into consideration the factors in the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, including the injury and resulting harm to a young man, and specific and general deterrence.

Her Honour noted the young apprentice suffered a serious and gruesome injury and was off work for some time. The injury impacted his lifestyle mentally and physically at the time.

Fortunately, the victim suffered no long-term permanent physical impacts and does not require any ongoing treatment. He suffered no financial loss and successfully completed his apprenticeship with the defendant company.