Farmer fined $20,000 over amputation of worker’s arm

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A Munglinup farmer has been fined $20,000 (plus $10,000 in costs) over a 2008 incident in which a female farm hand suffered serious injuries including an amputated arm.

John Bylsma, the operator of Minnikin Farm at Munglinup, pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee, and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court last month.

In February 2008, a female employed as a farm hand at Minnikin Farm was operating a grain roller mill driven by a power take off (PTO) unit attached to a tractor to distribute grain to feed bins.

The guard on the belt drive of the grain roller mill had been removed, and there was no guarding on the PTO drive unit, the drive coupling of the drive pulleys or the belt.

The feed adjustment lever was located in a central position, requiring the operator to lean over the top of the rotating drive line if they wanted to adjust the feed flow rate.  The worker was aware that the guard had been removed from the mill.

While operating the mill, the worker reached over to adjust the flow rate control lever.  This required her to push the lever away from herself with some force.

Part of the jacket she was wearing became entangled in the unguarded belt drive and she was dragged into the PTO drive unit, suffering multiple arm and leg injuries including traumatic amputation of her right arm.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today that the case provided a stark reminder of the importance of guarding the moving parts of machinery.

“The court heard that it was practicable for the employer to have ensured that the grain roller mill was operated only when adequate guards were in place, especially on the PTO shaft,” Mr McCulloch said.

“This young woman was seriously and permanently injured because her employer failed to provide her with a safe working environment, contrary to his duty of care.

“It is always disappointing when WorkSafe has to take prosecution action against an employer over a lack of guarding on machinery because guards should be one of the most basic safety measures taken in a workplace.

“Guarding of the moving parts of machinery is still one of the easiest and most obvious means of minimising the risk of injury to machinery operators, and I strongly urge employers in workplaces with machinery to ensure that it is safe to operate.

“A code of practice on safeguarding of machinery and plant is available, and should be obtained by employers and kept in all workplaces that contain machinery with hazardous moving parts.”

Further information on machinery guarding can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877, or on the website at

Media contact:  Caroline De Vaney 9327 8744 or 0408 927653 (media enquiries only).


Media release
04 Apr 2012

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