A Perth waste recycling company has been ordered to pay $330,000 – along with an additional $234,000 in costs – after an incident that resulted in a labour hire worker’s arm being amputated.
The company, Resource Recovery Solutions Pty Ltd, was found guilty of two offences in Perth Magistrates Court in July, including:
Gross negligence in failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment for a labour hire worker.
Non-compliance with an improvement notice issued by WorkSafe.
Resource Recovery Solution was fined $310,000 for the gross negligence offence and $20,000 for the improvement notice offence.
Occurring in January 2016 at the Bayswater recycling plant, the incident involved a worker having his arm amputated at the shoulder when it was caught in the crush point between a conveyor belt and a roller at the automated recycling plant.
It was the worker’s job to manually remove unsuitable items from conveyor belts and clear blockages/jams in various machines. A blockage had been cleared and the belts had been restarted when the worker reached in to remove a rock and was dragged into the crush point.
There was no guarding around the crush points of the belt, and there was no lockout tag out procedure followed to isolate the moving parts of the plant when removing blockages.
Significance of the ruling
The gross negligence verdict has been deemed significant by WorkSafe WA for many reasons including the following:
It is the first time an entity has been found guilty of gross negligence under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the most serious offence possible under that Act.
The obligation on WorkSafe, as a prosecutor, to prove that a company has been grossly negligent is particularly difficult.
The company had a long history of flouting workplace safety laws. In September 2013, another worker at this plant was killed when an overloaded roof panel collapsed and crushed him.
WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh went on to say: “WorkSafe inspectors visited the workplace and found that numerous conveyor belts were not guarded. They were reassured that the plant was fully automated and workers were not present when the plant was running.
“WorkSafe issued an Improvement Notice requiring guarding to be installed on crush points of the belts, but this was not complied with despite several reminder letters being sent to the employer. The company Director advised that the notice had been complied with, but this worker had his arm literally torn off by an unguarded conveyor belt.
“The employer in this case has continued to disregard the safety of workers by allowing them to work with conveyor belts with unguarded crush points even after numerous incidents at that workplace.”
The timing of this incident is particularly relevant to the associated fines due to the fact that breaches of workplace safety laws were increased in 2018. Seeing as the incident occurred before this date, the maximum fines available to the Magistrate for the gross negligence offence was $500,000. However, had the indecent occurred after October 2018, the maximum available fine would have increased significantly to $2.7million.
The true cost of compliance
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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.