Vic manufacturer fined after worker’s fingers severed - 15.8.23

Melton exhaust system manufacturer MPI Global Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $40,000 after a worker had four fingers amputated while using inadequately guarded machinery. The company pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to provide or maintain plant that was safe and without risks to health. The company was also ordered to pay costs of $6478.

This incident is the fifth amputation-related WorkSafe prosecution in the past year, with outcomes totalling more than $380,000 in fines, enforceable undertakings and costs imposed by the courts. In the same period, WorkSafe Victoria accepted 126 claims for workplace amputation injuries.

In the latest case, the worker was using a press machine to form a steel plate to make muffler caps when the injury occurred in October 2020. There was a guard at the front of the machine that needed to be removed to access the steel plate and, while there was a safety rod in place to ensure the press did not come back down before the guard did, this rod had disconnected. The worker tried to reconnect the safety rod and resumed operating the press, which shortly afterwards crushed his hand, amputating four fingers. The worker underwent multiple surgeries and only two of his fingers could be successfully reattached.

A WorkSafe investigation found it was common for the safety rod to come loose, meaning the press would start working without the guard being fully down. The safety rod would be fixed by adding new nuts and bolts that were found around the workplace and not specifically designed to keep the rod in place. Workers had advised the company about a dozen times that the safety rod was broken.

The court found that it was reasonably practicable for the company to use an interlocked physical barrier on the press machine and to ensure the machine was regularly serviced, checked daily and that components such as the safety rod were repaired. WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the company’s disregard for safety had left a worker with life-altering injuries and that the incident highlights the damage that can be done when employers fail in their duty to do everything they can to provide a safe workplace. “There are absolutely no excuses for neglecting to properly guard machinery or undertake regular servicing and repairs to ensure they can be used safely,” Beer said.

To manage risks when working with machinery and plant, WorkSafe advises employers to identify hazards, assess the risks associated with them, and eliminate or control those risks by isolating them or using an alternative. Staff should also be trained in the safe operation of machines and equipment, with written procedures supplied in the worker’s first language. Employers are also urged to develop and implement safe operating procedures in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives.

Employers are also advised to ensure safety guards and gates are compliant and fixed to machines at all times, with signs placed on or near a machine to alert employees of the dangers of operating it. All machines and equipment must also be regularly serviced and inspected.