WA company fined over amputation of worker’s finger

A Palmyra-based company has been fined $ 10,000 over an incident at work which resulted in the amputation of a worker’s finger.

The food processing company pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment, and was fined in the Fremantle Magistrates Court last Wednesday.

In February 2010, the worker was operating a mincing machine that had a hopper at the top where meat was fed to be minced.

The worker put 200kg of meat onto a lifting hoist, from which it was dropped into the hopper. He started the machine and climbed onto a stepladder beside the mincing machine to check the amount of meat going down the hopper.

Upon noticing that the meat was only going half way down the hopper and was not reaching the mincing area, he pushed the meat down using his right hand.

His right finger got stuck in the mincing area and he suffered injuries which required his finger to be amputated.

After this incident, the employer removed the stepladder and installed a safety step to access the hopper incorporating a safety switch which prevents the mincer from operating when a worker is standing on the step.

WorkSafe Acting Director Ian Munns said the case was a disappointing example of an employer’s failure in providing workers with sufficient protection from moving parts of a machinery.

“It’s disappointing that the message evidently still has not gotten through that it is never safe to allow the moving parts of machinery to remain operational when workers may have to make adjustments or perform maintenance,” said Mr Munns.

“The court heard that it was reasonably practicable for the company to have either installed guards on the feed hopper of the mincer or installed a safety switch on the machine.

“Subsequent to this incident, the employer installed a safe system of work for this mincer that cost less than $ 3000 – far less than the total $ 11,548 the company ended up paying in a fine and costs.

“The machine was made safer too late for the injured worker, who could have been spared the permanent injury he suffered.

“Many workers have been seriously injured or killed when equipment or machinery they were working on has been activated, so it’s absolutely crucial that safe systems of work are in place.

“Guarding of the dangerous moving parts of a machinery is such a basic and easy precaution to take, and it’s disappointing that we continue to see cases where these simple measures are not taken.”

More information on machinery guarding can be obtained through the WorkSafe WA website.

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