Costly consequences for Geelong businesses

A Geelong business which failed to properly guard machines resulting in three workers suffering serious injuries within months has today been convicted and fined $160,000.
News article published

Friday 04 Nov 2011

Industries and topics
  • Manufacturing
  • Hazardous manual handling

Timbertruss Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court to three charges of failing to provide a safe workplace and failing to provide training and supervision to employees.

The court heard how three Timbertruss workers– two from the company’s Belmont plant and one from its South Geelong plant – suffered serious crush injuries in separate incidents over a four-month period.

Each of the machines were used to make timber trusses, but were inadequately guarded:

The court was told that:

  • On 4 March 2009 a worker’s hand was crushed in a press;
  • On 31 March 2009, the head of another worker was crushed between a saw and the side of the machine as he attempted to remove a small piece of wood that had become blocked and;
  • A worker lost two fingers on 15 June 2009 as he removed timber off cuts from an inadequately guarded saw.

WorkSafe’s investigation found the company applied administrative controls, but failed to implement adequate physical barriers to prevent injury. The company has since implemented appropriate guarding and other measures on each of the machines.  

WorkSafe’s Operations General Manager, Lisa Sturzenegger hoped the prosecution would send a strong message to companies operating machinery without appropriate guarding.  

“Plant and machinery safety should not be left to the discretion of the workers. Employers must ensure the highest level of protection,” she said.

“Workers need to receive training and be competent to operate the machinery before they are allowed to work unsupervised and employers need to systematically manage risks to ensure they provide a safe place of work.”

WorkSafe figures show that 5096 injuries in the greater Geelong area were reported to WorkSafe over the past five financial years. Treatment and rehabilitation costs for these workers - paid for through their employer’s workplace injury insurance – exceeded $92 million.

The prosecution comes just days after WorkSafe launched an awareness campaign reminding businesses of the need to address health and safety matters before an inspector visits.

Ms Sturzenegger said while the new ‘Any Day Now’ campaign reminded employers that WorkSafe inspectors were out and about, basic safety issues had to be dealt with at the business level.

“Prosecution is an expensive option, but is avoidable if safety obligations are met,” she said.

“Many people are doing the right thing, but we find we are not getting the traction we know is possible by addressing some basic safety issues which can be fixed at little or no cost, but if left undone can have devastating consequences.”