Company fined after worker’s fingers severed by machine - 14.11.23

Cardboard box company Visy Board Pty Ltd has been fined $275,000 and ordered to pay $8500 in costs after an incident in which a worker had parts of two fingers severed. The company pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment.

The company operates a cardboard box factory in O’Connor, Western Australia that produces cardboard packaging products such as cartons, pizza boxes, removal boxes and shoe boxes. In January 2020, employees of the company were operating a machine called a Titan 1 that processes blank corrugated cardboard sheets to create printed, creased and cut sheets to be folded along crease and cut lines to form containers.

On the day of the incident, pizza boxes were being made, and it was not uncommon for jams to occur in the feed end of the machine. There had been four jams that morning previous to this incident. Following the fifth jam at the feed end, a worker was making adjustments to the machine when his left hand was pulled into the feed rolls, severing two segments of his middle finger and the top segment of his ring finger. At the time, the machine was still running and had not been stopped, per Visy Board’s procedures.

The worker knew that the machine had not been stopped but had pushed a blank card into the feed gate which had contacted a roller and dragged the card and his hand into the machine. Another worker then hit the machine stop button. Acting WorkSafe Commissioner Sally North said the case is another reminder of the importance of having procedures in place to isolate machinery when clearing blockages and ensuring that these procedures are followed.

Although the company had written procedures in place, it was not training and assessing the competency of workers in accordance with its own procedures. Additionally, the Standard Work Procedure for the clearing of blockages or jams in the machine required it to be completely stopped and gave clear instructions on how to achieve this. The worker who was primarily responsible for clearing jams and who was working with the injured person had not seen the Standard Work Procedure prior to this incident and had not completed the relevant competency assessment as was required by Visy Board.

“The injured worker had not been specifically trained on how to deal with jams on the feeder end of the Titan 1 but had received general instruction to stop the machine when clearing a jam. Following this incident, Visy Board added a plastic strip to the infeed of the machine to reduce the risk of hands entering and installed three engineering or electrical controls to further reduce the risks. However, the company had previously failed to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure their employees were not exposed to hazards and this resulted in permanent injury to a worker,” North said.

The code of practice ‘Safeguarding of machinery and plant’ outlines the risks associated with the moving parts of machinery, and is available on the WorkSafe Victoria website.