Farming company and Director fined $35,000 after amputation of worker’s fingers

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A New Norcia farming company and a company Director have been fined a total of $35,000 over an incident in which an employee had parts of three fingers amputated by an auger hopper.

GP Mackie and Co Pty Ltd was fined $25,000 and company Director Peter Gilbert Mackie was fined $10,000 in the Moora Magistrates Court this week.  The company and Mr Mackie both pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee.

The incident occurred at Mirridong farm in New Norcia, a cattle and hay farm where crops and grains are also grown, and machinery including air seeders with augers attached are used.

In May 2012, an employee of GP Mackie was working alone, auguring fertiliser into the bin on the air seeder.

He thought he saw a piece of rock in the hopper and reached for it, believing he was well out of reach of the flight from the auger.  He suffered partial amputation of the middle three fingers on his left hand, which required surgery and rehabilitation.

There was no guard fitted to the auger hopper.  The guard had at times been intentionally removed from the auger due to difficulties with the fertiliser clumping and not getting through the guard.

Mr Mackie was aware of the removal of the guard, and GP Mackie’s sister company (which had the same Directors and shared the same workplace) had been given ten improvement notices by WorkSafe inspectors between 2005 and 2009 for guarding issues.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today that machinery guarding was absolutely essential and it was never safe to allow the moving parts of machinery to remain unguarded.

“It is up to the employer to provide a safe work environment for all employees, and this includes providing safely guarded machinery,” Mr McCulloch said.

“The Magistrate in this case made the point that family farming is not exempt from this responsibility to provide a safe workplace, and that the penalty must reflect the seriousness of the incident.

“Subsequent to this incident, the employer installed a guard on the auger that was made from scrap materials and so cost very little.

“If this had been done earlier, this incident would not have occurred and the employee involved would have been spared a great deal of suffering.

“The fact is that Mr Mackie would have been well aware of his responsibilities as an employer after being issued ten notices for guarding offences.

“Guarding of the dangerous moving parts of machinery is such a basic and easy precaution to take, and it really is time for employers to take a good hard look at the guarding situation and stop exposing employees to the risk of injury.”

Further information:

Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)

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Media release
10 Jul 2015

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