A Brisbane and Gold Coast flooring company has been fined $50,000 over a workplace safety incident in which a young labourer suffered serious injuries when his hand became caught in a portable mixer.
The company pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to breaching Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 by failing to comply with its health and safety duties and exposing a worker to a risk of death or serious injury.
The court heard that the defendant supplied seamless resin flooring and had been subcontracted to lay an epoxy floor in a commercial business.
The company engaged a labour-hire company that provided an 18-year-old labourer, who had three years of construction industry experience.
A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found that on 16 November 2017, the labourer attended the workplace and signed a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) before being supervised by another employee, who provided safety information on mixing resin and chemicals.
The worker was trained in the use of the “Hippo Mixer”, an 85-litre portable mixer, and was instructed to scrape down the sides of the mixer using a steel rod, although it is unclear whether he was told to do so while the mixer was on or off.
The labourer mixed 20-30 batches of resin throughout the course of the day, where he scraped the machine’s sides while it was operational.
While performing the work, the steel rod became caught in the machine’s mixing blade and pulled the labourer’s hand in, with the 18-year-old sustaining a fractured left wrist and finger, and some soft tissue injuries.
The court heard the family-owned flooring company should have provided adequate instruction, training and supervision on using the Hippo mixer; provided information to workers on its hazards (the manufacturer’s instructions); and ensured workers followed the instructions specifically to keep hands and objects clear while the machine was operating.
In sentencing, Magistrate Judith Daley took into account the defendant’s lack of prior convictions, its cooperation with the investigation and the guilty plea. Her Honour accepted that some training was given to the injured worker but commented that it was not adequate, noting that the SWMS related to safe handling of chemicals required for resin mixing rather than the use of the Hippo mixer.
Her Honour observed that the injured worker was not checked on throughout the day, having carried out 20-30 mixes without turning off the Hippo mixer. Her Honour also commented that general deterrence looms large in sentencing matters of this type.
The court noted that the company was a family company that had traded for 40 years and had not been convicted of any other WHS breaches, and that it had implemented significant changes post-incident, including no longer using the Hippo mixer.
The company was fined $50,000 and ordered to pay costs of $2846.