Manufacturing business fined $55,000 over lack of machinery guarding

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A Bibra Lake 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 Pty Ltd – trading as Tontine Fibres – pleaded guilty to four charges and was fined in the Fremantle Magistrates Court last week.

United Bonded Fabrics 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 the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations, and was fined $5000 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 (referred to as the “bonded line”) and pillows (the “pillow line”).

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.

Part of the worker’s duties involved working with a garnett machine, and cleaning the machine when it broke down and when it was switched off at the end of each day.

On July 27 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.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today that the case should serve as a reminder of the importance of providing adequate guarding for the moving parts of machinery, especially when performing maintenance.

“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,” Mr McCulloch said.

“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.

“Subsequent to this incident, the employer installed a time delay device onto the gate to keep it locked until the moving parts come to a complete stop.

“Unfortunately, it was too late for the injured worker who sustained a permanent injury.  And for the sake of a modification that cost just over $2000, the employer has been fined $55,000.

“Many workers have been seriously injured or killed when equipment or machinery they were working on has been activated, so it absolutely crucial that safe systems of work are in place.

“Guarding of the dangerous moving parts of machinery is such a basic and easy precaution to take, and it’s disappointing that we continue to see cases where these simple measures are not taken.”

Further information on machinery guarding and safe systems of work can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.


Media contact:  Caroline De Vaney 9327 8744 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only).
caroline.devaney@commerce.wa.gov.au

 

WorkSafe
Media release
18 Jan 2012

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