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QLD: $75,000 fine after serious sugar mill injury leads to amputation

Date: 
Tuesday, 7 January, 2020 - 16:45
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Queensland

A sugar mill operator has been fined $75,000 after a young worker had a foot amputated as a result of a workplace injury.

The company recently pleaded guilty in the Mossman Magistrates Court to breaching s.32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, having failed to meet its work health and safety duties.

The defendant company operated four sugar mills and held duties under s.19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 when an 18-year-old worker was injured at one of the mills on 25 September 2014.

The incident involved a cane bin tipper. The process at the tip was almost fully automated, with full bins moved from the weighing area to the tip, where the cane billets were tipped from the cane bin onto the carrier.

The operator in charge was responsible for watching the tip to keep the process flowing, re-pinning the bins once they had been through the tipping process and keeping the area clean of cane billets and other debris. There was no guard or physical barrier in front of the tip area.

The injured worker was operating close to the tip when his right foot was trapped between the edge of the cradle of the tip and the cane bin exit area.

Although he does not recall much about the incident, it appears his foot was caught as the tip was returning to its position in the cradle.

The injured worker sustained a severe injury involving degloving and midtarsal fracture and dislocation of his right midfoot.

He had several operations on his foot, which were unsuccessful and ultimately, opted to have his right foot amputated.

The company was fined $75,000 and ordered to pay professional and court costs of almost $1,600. No conviction was recorded.

In reaching a decision, the magistrate said there were flaws in the system, though the defendant was not reckless. There was a failure of supervision and a lack of guarding that made general deterrence relevant.

In deciding the penalty, the court took into account the defendant had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and demonstrated remorse. The company was also quick to address the hazard post-incident.