$350,000 fine issued following worker’s double leg amputation

INDUSTRY NEWS:

$350,000 fine issued following worker’s double leg amputation

Matt Turner | Managing Director

A South Australian hay processing and exporting company has been convicted and fined following a workplace incident in 2017 that saw a worker’s legs amputated below the knee in a hay press. 

The company, Gilmac Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty in the South Australia Employment Tribunal (SAET) for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA).

A horrific injury

A worker was standing on the mezzanine platform of a hay press attempting to clear residue from the press with what is referred to as a ‘metal bale’. The metal bale was being manoeuvred into position on the press’s weigh table when it became stuck.

The worker attempted to dislodge the metal bale from behind the platform’s guardrail and fell approximately 3 metres onto the weigh table below. The weight of the worker on the metal bale activated the operation of the hay press, which amputated both of the worker’s legs below the knees.

Practical preventions

According to SafeWork SA, the incident could have been avoided if the business had:

  • conducted an assessment of the risks associated with the plant
  • implemented adequate engineering controls, such as guarding and sensors
  • developed safe systems of work for the clearage of residue.

Further findings revealed that the hay press had not been isolated as the worker was moving the metal bale in preparation for clearing the residue.

 

In-court consequences 

Gilmac Pty Ltd was charged for failing to undertake a risk assessment of the hay processing plant, along with failing to provide appropriate guarding of exposed areas and failing to provide safe access and adequate operating procedures for access to plant.

As a result, the company was convicted by SAET and imposed a fine of $350,000 plus costs. A subsequent 30 per cent discount was applied to the fine following Gilmac Pty Ltd’s early guilty plea. 

In sentencing, Deputy President Magistrate Cole accepted the defendant’s contrition and acknowledged Gilmac has “expended significant monies designing a new machine and reviewing its protocols and training in the workplace”. 

However, he went on to state there was “little mitigation in a defendant spending money getting its safety processes up to scratch, when they should have been up to scratch in the first place”.

Be safe, not sorry

Though life-changing injuries like this may seem rare, they happen more often than you may realise. In fact, according to figures from Safework Australia’s Key WHS statistics Australia 2020 report 16% of all serious claims made between 2018–19 were a result of injuries caused by wounds, lacerations, amputations and internal organ damage.

Concerning as the stats may be, what’s even more alarming is how easy they are to avoid. As the sentencing judge noted, it is much more sensible to have solid safety systems in place to begin with to prevent such injuries in the first place rather than retrofitting them after the incident has occured.  

Don’t let this be you

Since 2004, Plant Assessor has been helping people take control of their safety systems relating to plant and machinery. 

We have an easy to use self-diagnostic tool, MACHINERY SAFETY SYSTEM HEALTH CHECK, designed to help people who use plant and machinery understand how tight their safety systems are. 

We urge you to take the test and get a better understanding of your system’s health now, before you are faced with an unimaginable incident like this one. 

We’ll take care of the hard part

At Plant Assessor, we are committed to helping people get machinery safety right. It may seem like a daunting process, but our team of experts will simplify the whole process for you. If you would like some help with your system diagnosis or any other plant and machinery safety concerns, please contact us today. 

 

Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. This is not intended as legal or expert advice for your specific situation. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the content of this information.

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