Manufacturer fined $30,000 after machine crush

High-Fire Heating Pty Ltd was, without conviction, sentenced in the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday after earlier pleading guilty to one charge of failing to provide or maintain systems of work that were safe and without risks to health.

It was also ordered to pay costs of $2,509.

The Court heard that in September 2019, a worker was attempting to free a jam inside the press without having switched the machine off.

The worker reached into the stamping bed area before accidentally pressing the foot pedal, which activated the machine. As a result his hand was crushed.

The worker underwent five operations and still suffers with numbness and loss of function.

A WorkSafe investigation found the company had fitted a hinged guard to the machine about two years prior to the incident but due to the frequency of jams, it was held permanently open by a hook to provide easier access for maintenance.

High-Fire Heating had told workers to turn off the machine before clearing jams but had no formal procedure, such as a “lock out, tag out” system.

The court heard the company had prior knowledge of similar risks as a WorkSafe inspector had attended the workplace in 2015 and issued compliance notices relating to inadequate guarding on two other press machines.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the dangers of unguarded machinery were well known and injuries often life changing or even fatal.

“No worker should be have to go through something so horrific because an employer has failed to address serious safety risks,” Dr Beer said.

“Failing to guard machinery is inexcusable. Guidance in relation to properly guarding press machines is widely available and WorkSafe won’t hesitate to prosecute employers who ignore 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.

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