Company fined over crush incident

A Reservoir business has been fined more than $37,000 after a worker’s hand was crushed in a faulty machine.
News article published

Wednesday 25 Jan 2012

Industries and topics
  • Manufacturing
  • Hazardous manual handling

MJDJ Holdings Pty Ltd, which trades as “Bang Stationery and Packaging,” pleaded guilty at the Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court yesterday to two offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

The company admitted it had failed to provide a safe working environment for its employees and failed to provide the information, instruction and training needed to do the job safely.

The charges related to an incident in September 2009, when a worker at the company’s Reservoir factory had three of his fingers crushed and partially amputated by a mechanical press.

The press exerted one tonne of force and was being used to manufacture DVD presentation boxes, the court heard.

The company had been warned by its own mechanical engineer the day before the incident that the machine was unsafe to use after one of the machine’s buttons was found to be cracked and faulty and that it could be operated by a single button.

The machine was designed to activate only when two buttons were pushed at the same time. This was a safety feature, designed to ensure that when the press operated, the operator’s hands were well away from the area where they might get crushed.

Although the company ordered a replacement button on the day it became aware of the problem, it allowed its employees to continue using the machine.

WorkSafe’s investigation revealed that it was common practice at the factory for two people to operate the machine at once, putting their hands at risk of being crushed. The machine could only be operated safely by a single person, but the workers were not told this.

Magistrate Smith fined the company $37,500 without conviction and ordered them to pay $6,351 in legal costs. Making the machine safe cost the company just $905.

Magistrate Smith indicated that had the company not pleaded guilty, they would have been convicted and fined $50,000.

WorkSafe Operations General Manager, Lisa Sturzenegger, said businesses had to set an example at the workplace.

“If workers aren’t properly trained on what’s safe and what’s not, they will keep working the way they do because they have been told it’s acceptable,” she said.

“Just because it’s the way the workplace has always done something doesn’t mean it’s the safe way, and businesses need to ensure work is carried out as safely as possible and that staff are fully trained.

“Unguarded or faulty equipment should be taken out of service, until it is fixed or made safe. As this incident shows us, the consequences of not doing this are considerable and long lasting.”