Tank maker fined $65,000 after worker loses thumb

A tank manufacturer has been fined $65,000 after a worker's thumb was amputated in an incident at its Swan Hill factory.


Polymaster Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Swan Hill Magistrates' Court last Wednesday after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain a system of work that was safe and without risks to health.

The company was also ordered to pay $16,000 in costs.

In March 2021, the worker was using an industrial wide belt sander when a flat metal bar she was holding to the sander while wearing leather rigging gloves, was dragged downward, trapping her left hand between the rotating belt and a resting plate.

The worker couldn't reach the emergency stop button and had to call out to her supervisor to stop the machine.

When the worker removed her hand she noticed her left thumb had been amputated at the second joint and ground down by the belt.

She was airlifted to hospital but attempts to reattach the thumb were unsuccessful.

WorkSafe's investigation found the worker was not aware of a specific safe work method statement created for operating the machine that stated no gloves or loose clothing that may become entangled should be worn while using the sander.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the company's failure to ensure a safe system of work had needlessly caused the worker considerable harm.

"This incident and the life changing injuries suffered have had a significant traumatic impact on this worker," Dr Beer said.

"The risks of working with machinery are well known so there is no excuse for failing to have a safe system of work in place and, most importantly, ensure that workers are adhering to it."

To manage risks when working with machinery employers should:

  • Identify hazards, assess the risks associated with them and eliminate or control those risks by isolating them or using an alternative.
  • Train staff in the safe operation of machines and equipment and provide written procedures in the worker's first language.
  • Develop and implement safe operating procedures in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives.
  • Ensure safety guards and gates are compliant and fixed to machines at all times.
    Regularly service and inspect machines and equipment.
  • Place signs on or near a machine to alert employees of the dangers of operating it.