Water corporation fined after worker loses finger

A utility company has been convicted and fined $50,000 after a worker was injured while cleaning part of a waste water management system.


Goulburn Valley Region Water Corporation, trading as Goulburn Valley Water, was sentenced in the Shepparton Magistrates' Court today after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain safe plant.

The corporation was also ordered to pay $3,906 in costs.

In October 2021, a worker was undertaking regular cleaning of a machine used to separate solid materials from waste water at a Mooroopna North sewage treatment facility.

As the worker attempted to dislodge solid material from a part of the machine known as a screw press, the steel pipe he was using became suddenly entangled and twisted around the rotating screw.

This jammed the worker's right hand into the moving metal fingers of a step screen located above the screw press, causing a partial amputation of his index finger and a de-gloving of his middle finger.

WorkSafe's investigation found that when being cleaned, the machine was regularly placed in manual mode so it could continue to run when guarding on the danger area was removed.

The court heard it was reasonably practicable for Goulburn Valley Water to have fitted an interlock device to prevent the machine running when the guarding was removed.

WorkSafe Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it was crucial for employers to act when risks associated with inspecting and cleaning machinery were identified.

"Just because a particular process has been used in the past without incident does not necessarily mean that it is without risks to the health and safety of workers," Dr Beer said.

"There was simply no excuse for exposing this worker to serious injury, especially given this employer had already acted to reduce the same risk on similar machines at other treatment facilities."

To ensure plant and equipment is cleaned safely, duty holder should:

  • Undertake a risk assessment to identify any hazards and assess how to remove or control them.
  • Have a documented procedure in place, including on how to power down and isolate equipment.
  • Ensure machines are powered down, fully secured and stable before cleaning begins.
  • Ensure machinery is properly guarded and safety interlocks are regularly checked.
  • Ensure workers are properly trained and supervised so they understand the procedure and the risks associated with the plant and equipment being cleaned.