A West Australian-based manufacturer of insulation and pillows has been fined a total of $55,000 over a lack of machinery guarding that resulted in the partial amputation of a worker’s finger.
United Bonded Fabrics, trading as Tontine Fibres, recently pleaded guilty to four charges and was fined in the Fremantle Magistrates Court.
The company pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee, and was fined $40,000.
The company also pleaded guilty to three breaches of the machinery guarding provisions of OHS regulations, and was fined $5,000 on each charge.
The production floor of the company’s premises was made up of many items of machinery used in the production of insulation and pillows, and the machinery was surrounded by cyclone fencing to prevent access to the area while the machines were energised.
In July 2009 a process worker on the pillow line was engaged in rolling out fibres from the machines and stuffing them into pillows before they were packaged and boxed, and part of the worker’s duties involved cleaning a garnett machine when it broke down and when it was switched off at the end of each day.
On 27 July 2009, the worker turned off the power to the garnett machine and entered through the main gate in the cyclone fencing to clean the machine, as was required at that time of day.
Although the main access gate to the machine was interlocked and automatically shut the machine down when the gate was opened, the moving parts of the machine continued to move for several minutes as it wound down.
As the worker was cleaning around the moving parts of the machine with her bare hands, the middle finger on her right hand was caught and crushed between a wheel and chain, resulting in the partial amputation of that finger.
At the time, she could not see that the parts were still moving because they were covered with fibres. She had not been instructed to check that the parts had stopped moving before cleaning the machine, and had not been provided with training on the hazards of operating the machine.
“It’s disappointing that the message is not getting across that it is never safe to leave any piece of machinery operational while doing repairs or performing maintenance,” said WorkSafe WA commissioner Lex McCulloch.
“There had been two previous incidents in this workplace in which other employees had sustained injuries as a result of having an arm and a finger caught in moving rollers, so the employer was clearly aware of this hazard.”