The SA Industrial Court recently handed down its 11th penalty this year over safety failings caused by unguarded machinery.
Rivapak was convicted and fined after pleading guilty to a breach of section 19(1) of the SA Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986 in that it failed to ensure the safety of an employee.
SafeWork SA prosecuted after investigating an incident in February 2009, at the company’s premises at Mannum where it packs and stores onions.
A 25-year-old male employee was using a machine to bag onions. During this task, his hand was caught in an unguarded point of the machine’s bag intake system.
As a result, the man suffered a serious injury to the index finger of his dominant left hand. He sustained two deep lacerations and crush injuries that required microsurgery to repair damaged tendons. The court was told the victim’s finger was scarred and impaired as a result.
SafeWork SA told the court that the machine was insufficiently guarded, there were no written safety instructions and a previous risk assessment was considered “brief” and “inadequate”.
Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke said the company had taken a “complacent approach” to its basic machine guarding obligations, and that it “placed an incorrect reliance on informal administrative hazard controls, which still permitted and indeed required at times, an operator’s hands and fingers to be placed near the unguarded pinch point”.
He fined the company $14,000 after a discount of 30 per cent to account for the company’s early guilty plea, cooperation, remedial action, and contrition which included a payment of nearly $5,300 to supplement the injured man’s WorkCover payments to the level of expected earnings at that time of the season.