Company’s appeal on $375,000 fine dismissed - 17.9.15

The Court of Appeal dismissed a Dingley-based engineering company’s appeal over fines imposed for different work safety incidents.

The company pleaded guilty in the County Court in August to two charges of failing to provide or maintain plant and systems of work that were so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.

In the course of a year, three workers were injured. Two had their fingers crushed in a lathe while another suffered leg injury after he was trapped between a table and the frame of a router.

Investigation revealed that the interlock on the lathe was bypassed allowing the machine to be used with the guard doors open.

The appeal was dismissed on Wednesday. The Court of Appeal did not accept the company’s argument that the fines imposed should be according to the seriousness of the employees’ injuries.

“The OHS Act is concerned generally with risks to health and safety and… concerned specifically with the duties owed with respect to health and safety,” the Court of Appeal said in its judgment.

“It is the extent of the failure to ensure that employees are not exposed to risk to their health and safety which determines the objective gravity of the offence. The consequences of the failure generally do not.”

Marnie Williams, WorkSafe’s executive director of Health and Safety, was pleased with the Court’s decision.

“The company had known of the risks associated with overriding the interlock since at least 2004, but chose instead to place the lathe operators in harm’s way for more than five years,” said Ms Williams

“It cynically disregarded WorkSafe’s inspection in 2006 by overriding the interlock two months after our visit and despite the first injury occurring in 2009, the company still did not bother reinstating this simple safety measure.

“Clearly it had no regard for the safety of its employees and it deserved a significant penalty.”

Ms Williams said guarding is important to keep workers safe from any machinery with moving parts.

“Time and time again, WorkSafe inspectors are called to incidents in which employees have been maimed by machines that have not been appropriately guarded,” said Ms Williams.

“There is simply no excuse for employers allowing any machine to be used without appropriate safety measures, such as guarding, in place.”

(Source: OHS News)