Company fined $250k after work experience student loses fingers

by HCA06 Apr 2017
A Coffs Harbour manufacturing business has been fined $250,000 after a 17-year-old work experience student had to have two finger tips amputated.

The student was undertaking work experience at Thermal Electric Elements in Toormina in August 2014.

He had been removing metal strips from a brake press when he accidentally activated the machine's knife, resulting in the tips of two of his fingers being crushed and having to be amputated.

SafeWork NSW charged Thermal Electric Elements with a breach of section 32/19(1) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).

It was alleged the company failed to provide adequate guarding on the brake press machine.

SafeWork NSW’s investigation found the business had adjusted a setting on the machine’s guarding system that would have prevented the machine from operating when objects such as arms and hands were in the vicinity.

The investigation also found there was a general lack of instruction, training, information and supervision provided to the work experience student.

Thermal Electric Elements Pty Ltd was found guilty in the NSW District Court and fined $250,000.

HC contacted SafeWork NSW for comment and received a statement from the executive director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy.

He said the fine was appropriate given the permanent injuries suffered by the young and vulnerable worker.

"Safety guarding is a very simple way to protect workers from being seriously injured or killed,” Dunphy said.

“They stop body parts getting too close to moving machinery or stop the machine entirely if there is a potential emergency.

“Machinery should only be used according to manufacturer’s instructions; that includes keeping guards in place.”

Dunphy added that this incident represents a major failure in work health and safety in relation to machine guarding.

“This has left a young worker with life-long injuries that may affect his future employment prospects,” said Dunphy.

“Setting the machine so that it operated while body parts were near the knife was an action that created significant health and safety risks to workers.

“This court decision sends a strong message to the business community of the need to protect young and vulnerable workers so that tragic incidents like this do not occur.”

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