The 28-year-old machine operator was taken to hospital where his thumb was amputated.
OneSteel Reinforcing Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Dandenong Magistrates Court on 7 February to one charge under section 21(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of failing to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a safe working environment.
The worker was collecting steel bars that had been shaped in a Syntax Line 28 machine when the incident occurred at the company’s Noble Park premises on 16 July 2017.
As the worker went to remove a steel bar his left thumb became caught between a fixed guard and a conveyor.
A WorkSafe investigation found a 10mm gap between the conveyor and a fixed metal guard posed a risk of entanglement or crush injury as a worker’s hand could enter the gap and be exposed to the conveyor.
The court heard the company conducted a safety audit on that machine prior to the incident but failed to identify the risk.
OneSteel was fined without conviction, having made an early guilty plea and with no prior convictions.
The court heard the company also complied with three improvement notices, fixing a yellow metal plate and two guards at the end of the conveyor and moving an emergency stop button to make it accessible to workers.
The company was also ordered to pay WorkSafe $5,000 in legal costs.
WorkSafe launched 33 investigations in 2018 into machine entrapment cases where guarding was absent or inadequate.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said missing or inadequate guarding could cause severe injuries or even death.
"This horrific and debilitating kind of injury should not be occurring in the 21st century, yet machine guarding remains one of the state’s biggest workplace safety issues," Ms Nielsen said.
"Employers must make sure approved physical barriers or guards are fitted to all moving machine parts that can have contact with any part of the body."
To prevent entrapments employers should:
- Fit gates or guards to machinery to prevent access to nip points and other moving parts.
- Ensure safety guards and gates are compliant and fixed to machines at all times.
- Where required, fit interlock devices to prevent machines from starting if an access point is open, or, to stop them if an access point is opened while running.
- Regularly service and inspect machines and equipment.
- Develop safe operating procedures in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives.
- Train staff in the safe operation of machines and equipment and provide written procedures in the worker’s first language.
- Place signs on or near a machine to alert employees of the dangers of operating it.
- Consider whether hair, clothing, gloves, neckties, jewellery, cleaning brushes, or other materials become entangled.