The Brisbane Magistrates Court recently fined a timber company $60,000 for failing to protect a young inexperienced worker who lost a thumb and three fingers to a docking saw on 7 October 2015.
The company was found to have failed its obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 as a duty holder to protect the teenage employee.
The 19-year-old (and also son of the general manager) was using a Wadkin docking saw, and he went through an induction and was supervised for a period of time using the saw by other experienced staff.
The worker was unable to describe the exact circumstances of how his hand came into contact with the saw, indicating it was on the return of the blade after cutting the timber.
A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation identified that three months prior to the incident an external audit identified some component guarding missing from the saw. It recommended replacement as a high priority.
The audit results were discussed during a safety committee meeting, but ultimately overlooked and no action was taken.
The prosecution alleged a number of failures by the company including; no installation of adjustable duckbill and kidney guards, lack of adequate risk assessment (taking into account the frequency of use and the severity of harm which could result), no prestart inspections, and a no effective tag out procedures and removal of defective plant in accordance with Codes of Practice.
Magistrate Noel Nunan noted the injured worker provided a statement which explained his employer had been fully supportive post incident and provided him with a different position in the company which he enjoys and is excelling in.
He also indicated the lack of guarding, in his opinion, made no difference to how the injury was sustained. The worker had his amputated fingers successfully reattached and has use of them, but not such as to be able to return to his previous role.
Magistrate Nunan also took into account this was the first offence for a company with around 15 employees working at the plant and which has been operating for 35 years.
The defendant was fined $60,000 plus professional costs of almost $1600, and no conviction was recorded.