A sawmill operator in Queensland has been fined $50,000 over an incident in which four of a worker’s fingers and most of his right hand were amputated.
The company engaged workers to operate plant, including a planer used to process rough sawn cypress pine into dressed timber.
Two workers were operating the planer when timber became jammed and one worker lifted the side panel of the machine to locate the problem.
With the machine in operation, the worker turned to pick up the air hose to blow away wood shavings.
As he turned, the other worker put his hand near the lubrication valve, contacting the feeder rollers and dragging his hand into the cutting blades.
The machine was fitted with an interlock switch, but it was not working. Had it been working correctly, power to the machine would have been cut when the workers opened the cover to check for the blockage.
There was no guarding in place over the cutting blades, with the worker sustaining amputation injuries to four fingers and two thirds of his right hand.
The defendant pleaded guilty in the Roma Magistrates Court to having failed to meet its work health and safety duties and was fined $50,000. No conviction was recorded.
The court heard training and induction was delivered verbally and not recorded.
There were no safe work systems documented for clearing jams, no risk assessments had been conducted on the planer and no records were kept on maintenance of the machine.
While taking into account the seriousness of the breach and the significant injuries sustained by the injured worker, the magistrate acknowledged the employee had returned to work with the support of the company, albeit performing alternate duties.
The magistrate also acknowledged the company had not been prosecuted previously for any work health and safety breach, co-operated with the investigation and entered a plea of guilty.