Pipe maker fined $45,000 over finger amputation incident

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.
Wednesday, 9 November, 2022 - 13:30
Incidents & prosecutions

A company in Victoria that manufactures reinforced concrete products has been fined $30,000 after a worker’s hand got caught in a machine at its Kilmore workplace, resulting in serious injury.

Reinforced Concrete Pipes Australia (Vic) Pty Ltd was fined an additional $15,000 for failing to control the risk of a forklift colliding with pedestrians or other mobile plant.

RCPA was also ordered to pay costs of $7,560. No conviction was recorded.

The company was recently sentenced in the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court after earlier pleading guilty to a single charge of failing, so far as was reasonably practicable, to provide a safe working environment for persons other than employees, and a single charge of failing, so far as was reasonably practicable, to provide a safe working environment.

In November 2019, a labour-hire worker was tasked with cleaning a concrete precast machine. To carry out the task, workers were required to enter the danger areas of the 40-tonne, six-metre-high machine, descend four metres into a lower level and shovel concrete residue into a wheelbarrow for removal.

As the worker was lowered on a hydraulic platform his right hand became trapped between moving machine parts, resulting in the partial amputation of two fingers and the partial degloving of three fingers.

WorkSafe Victoria inspectors identified significant safety risks, including the risk of fall into the lower level by using the hydraulic platform rather than stairs to enter the lower level and exposure to multiple sheer and crush points.

The court heard RCPA had not carried out a risk assessment of the work, had not adequately trained the worker in the use of the plant, had not provided the machine’s manual to the worker, knew safety gate interlocks had been deliberately bypassed and knew the machine could be turned on while workers were still inside the danger areas.

Upon reviewing CCTV footage and during physical inspections, WorkSafe inspectors also witnessed forklifts being driven in close proximity to pedestrians.

The court heard the company did not have a documented traffic management plan, did not have a documented forklift procedure, had not set a minimum distance between forklifts and pedestrians, and did not have any physical barriers or designated zones to keep forklifts and pedestrians separated.

WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety Narelle Beer said RCPA’s blatant neglect of its duty of care for its workers had resulted in a horrendous and life-changing injury.

“It shouldn’t take a serious injury for an employer to get its safety practices and procedures in order,” Beer said.

“WorkSafe inspectors regularly carry out proactive inspections across a large number of industries, so companies, large and small, must ensure they are doing everything they can to reduce the risk of workers being injured.”