SafetyNet 449, May 30, 2018
This has been a good week for Victorian workers - the Labor party has pledged to introduce legislation for both Industrial Manslaughter and Wage Theft - read more below.
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Vic Labor promises Industrial Manslaughter legislation!
The Victorian Trades Hall Council has applauded Daniel Andrews' commitment to Industrial Manslaughter legislation as a giant leap towards justice for the families of workers killed by unsafe workplace practices. The laws announced by Labor at the ALP State Conference on the weekend will ensure that when a company's negligence kills a worker, those responsible could be held criminally responsible and face punishment.
The laws will cover suppliers, contractors, site visitors and even passers-by, the Premier promised. "We'll amend the OH&S Act, so that if an employer's negligence causes death – they will be held to account," Mr Andrews said. "That doesn't just mean thousands of dollars in fines, that means millions. And it'll mean jail time – up to 20 years. They'll cover a visiting supplier. A routine maintenance worker, or three innocent people walking down a busy street, on the edge of our city." The progress of this legislation will depend on Labor winning the election in November.
Luke Hilakari, VTHC Secretary, said, "Industrial manslaughter laws will mean those responsible for workplace deaths can be held accountable, and ultimately that will mean workers' safety concerns carry greater weight. That will have a huge impact on safety. Nobody should die at work. These laws signal that workers' lives can't just be written off on a balance sheet in Victoria."
Mr Hilakari called on Matthew Guy to match the Labor Party's commitment and support Industrial Manslaughter legislation.
Early indications from the Libs are not promising, however: shadow spokesman for finance, David
Morris, whose portfolio includes work safety, said a Liberal
government would be cautious before enacting any sweeping changes to
workplace laws. "I don't' think anyone has any problem with prosecuting to the full extent of the law," Mr Morris said. "But
we'd be cautious. We're happy to look at anything if there is a view
that the current law is not working. Our opinion right now would be
to let's make the current law work." Read more: VTHC Media Release;
Labor vows to jail bosses over workplace deaths,The Age;
Libs say they need more details to change workplace laws, The Courier
Tragedy near Albury
Two workers were killed, one was seriously injured and the entire workforce evacuated after a suspected hydrogen sulphide gas leak at a paper mill near Albury, on the NSW-Victoria border, last Thursday afternoon. About 150 workers were evacuated from the Norske Skog site at Ettamogah. A 28-year-old who was found unconscious at the site died at Albury Base Hospital that day, and a 36-year-old died in hospital overnight. Another worker remains in hospital - he is still critical, but reports are that his condition is improving.
Investigators from SafeWorkNSW Hazardous Chemical Team were onsite over the weekend, with investigations continuing; the site remains closed.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union described the deaths of their two members as a tragedy and has thanked the many unionists who have reached out. The cause of the incident is not yet known; union officials are inspecting the site. The VTHC sends our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and work colleagues of the workers who were killed. The AMWU has set up a donation facility to provide assistance to the workers' families. If you would like to donate, you can do so here.
Source: ABC News online. AMWU
VTHC online survey for LGBTIQA+ workers
The VTHC's We Are Union Pride Team has launched an online survey to help identify what the key challenges facing LGBTIQA+ workers are, to collect key statistical information about workplaces for LGBTIQA+ people, and for workers to tell us what the solutions are – because they are the experts and know what the solutions are.
The team is planning to put together an organising tool using the results of the survey, which they will utilise to influence policy and campaign decision making, and most importantly, to provide the union movement with a mandate to stand in solidarity with LGBTIQA+ workers and their struggles.
Have a say; make a difference: take the survey now, pass it on to your friends and colleagues. All information collected in this survey will remain confidential and de-identified. The VTHC will never pass on any details to any third party.
What are the issues around working on a ladder at a height of about 2 metres?
There are serious risks to workers from falls when working on ladders, particularly above 2 meters.
When work is done at above this height, the employer must comply with the Prevention of Falls regulations.
These require that a hierarchy of hazard controls be implemented to eliminate or minimise the risk of falling.
However, there are risks involved with just being on a ladder, irrespective of the height. There have been many instances of deaths from falls much below 2 meters – see this page for more information.
So there is a lot that your employer needs to do in order to comply with the general duty of care and the requirements of the regulations. If you are concerned about your safety or that of others while working on ladders, then you need to raise the matter with your HSR (if you have one) or if not, then directly with your union. If you do not have an HSR at your workplace, then you and the other workers need to elect someone!
Please send any OHS related queries in to Ask Renata - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can – usually within a couple of days
ABSOLUTELY last chance to nominate: HSR of the Year
This is REALLY your last chance to nominate yourself or your HSR for the WorkSafe HSR of the Year award, as nominations close tomorrow! Get onto the WorkSafe Awards website and get nominating. Time is quickly running out - applications close on May 31. Check out our Facebook posts here and here.
Low wages an OHS issue
The announcement this weekend of Labor's pledge to introduce increased fines and possible jail sentences for intentional wage theft should be of interest to HSRs and others. According to Professor Rory O'Neill, from the University of Liverpool School of Law and Social Justice, not only is intentional wage theft unjust and against the law, low pay can be deadly.
We know that it is often the vulnerable - young or older workers, casual workers, migrant/visa holders, those in certain industries such as hospitality, fruit picking, franchising and the 'gig' economy, who are being ripped off by their employers. These are the lowest paid workers, who are being paid under award, not getting their penalty rates or sometimes not paid at all.
The premier, Daniel Andrews, promised a re-elected Labor government would introduce laws to protect these workers. "Whether you're a convenience store chain or a celebrity chef, if you deliberately and dishonestly underpay your workers, if you deny or deprive them of what is rightfully theirs, you will face jail," he said.
Employers will face a maximum jail term of 10 years and businesses could be fined up to $950,000. The legal process for ripped-off workers to recover wages will be expedited – court fees will be lowered, cases will be heard within 30 days and the process simplified.
While it is true that we have federal laws in place, the reality is that they are not working, or are ineffective, as wage theft continues to be rife, and workers who speak up have a hard time getting their wages. Also, even if found out, it's rare for employers to face much more than just having to pay back the stolen wages.
Professor O'Neill, who is also the Occupational health adviser, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Belgium, said, "There is compelling evidence for low wages to be recognised as a genuine occupational hazard."
There is increasing political agreement that low pay and income inequality go hand in hand with poor health and low life expectancy. However, he writes, one overlooked contributor to this health inequity is the association between low pay and harmful, sometimes deadly, working conditions. Occupational injuries and diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer frequently come with less well remunerated jobs. Poor working conditions are commonly a toxic companion to poor pay.
Victorian government pledges to introduce jail terms for wage theft, The Guardian;
Andrews' plans to criminalise wage fraud could bolster federal laws, The Age
Professor Rory O'Neill: Unjust pay rates can be deadly, Europe Needs a Payrise
Decommissioned power station to be demolished
It was late last week that locals found out that the now defunct power station on Victoria's Surf Coast was to be demolished with explosives this morning, weather permitting. The notice of demolition of the six-storey-high Alcoa power station in Anglesea stated the implosion would last 10-20 seconds and create 'localised dust'. But the townspeople voiced concerns over the potential of asbestos dust and the lack of consultation, despite being assured that all asbestos had been removed. Locals also noted that the nearby school was only notified last Friday, and that a nearby kindergarten had not been notified at all, as was the case with some Anglesea residents living nearby.
Alcoa has said it was working with the Environment Protection Authority, Worksafe and emergency services to ensure safety and environmental standards were met. The plan included the establishment of a 400-metre exclusion zone around the power
Read more: The Age
Global: Asbestos industry told 'the end is nigh!'
A global network of 30 trade union, labour, environmental, academic and occupational disease victims' advocacy organisations have told the asbestos industry its days are numbered. In an open letter headed 'the end is nigh!', groups including the global building unions' federation BWI, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) and the Asia Monitor Resource Centre note "there has been a dramatic fall in asbestos demand and a considerable diminution of this toxic industry's influence." It notes that only Russia and Kazahkstan are now exporting asbestos. "These countries are holding the rest of the world to ransom and in doing so, could be responsible for millions of asbestos deaths." The letter concludes: "The asbestos industry, an industry of death and destruction, is itself dying. As this toxic technology is consigned to the history books, a 'just transition policy' for redundant asbestos miners and affected communities should be implemented as a matter of urgency. They do deserve the human right to work and live in a healthy environment; for them, and for us, the future is now asbestos-free."
Read more: Open letter [pdf]
USA: J&J ordered to pay millions
Johnson & Johnson has been ordered by a California jury to pay $US25.7 million ($34 million) in damages to a 68-year-old woman who claimed her mesothelioma was caused by asbestos in the company's baby powder. The jury awarded found J&J was 67 per cent responsible for her cancer. The woman's lawyers said she was exposed to the baby powder when she used it on her children and while bowling.
J&J said it would appeal. "We will continue to defend the safety of our product because it does not contain asbestos or cause mesothelioma," said spokeswoman Carol Goodrich. "Independent, 'non-litigation driven' studies have found no asbestos in J&J's baby powder," she said. This is the second jury in less than two
months to conclude J&J sold its baby powder knowing it contained at least trace amounts of asbestos and posed a cancer risk. Source: The Age
International Union News
UK: Qantas using 'anti-union' tactics to silence safety concerns
Britain's largest union Unite has warned Qantas airlines against employing 'anti-union' tactics to try to suppress legitimate OHS concerns. The union was speaking out after the introduction of the airline's new 17-hour ultra-long haul flight between London and Perth. The new direct route, launched by Qantas in March this year, means an average duty period of 19 hours for the ten cabin crew on board each 787 Dreamliner aircraft on the route.
Unite has raised concerns with Qantas that the cabin crew, who are all UK based, can expect to receive an average rest period of 25 hours in their hotel before commencing their duty on the flight home. The union also said 'open and transparent conversations' between Unite and its members on OHS concerns have been described by the UK base manager for Qantas as 'unreasonable union activity'. Unite regional officer Lindsey Olliver commented: "While the future of flying is likely to centre on ultra-long haul operations, Qantas has a responsibility to ensure that the safety and well-being of its passengers and cabin crew continues to be of paramount importance." She added: "Qantas cabin crew must be provided with adequate rest down route between sectors to ensure they are fully able to complete their safety critical functions without impairment whilst operating on-board an aircraft… I urge Qantas in the UK to engage with Unite and listen to its workforce rather than resorting to bullying anti-union threats when dealing with legitimate safety concerns." Unite is calling for Qantas to implement more sensible rostering practices by abandoning its current trip length 'trial' in favour of a more humane 5-6 day trip pattern. Read more: Unite news release. Morning Star. Travel Weekly. Source: Risks 850.
The final report by Dame Judith Hackitt into the adequacy of the current building regulations and fire safety was published last week. The report was commissioned by the government after last year's fire at Grenfell Tower in West London, that led to the loss of 71 lives. According to the UK's peak union council, the TUC, while the report makes a number of good recommendations, "it falls short of providing the kind of safety regime that is needed." Commenting on the report's publication, TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said: "At the time of the fire, I said that fire safety had suffered massively because of the government's obsession with deregulation and we need to make sure that the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire are learned and that we can be confident that tower blocks are safe places to live and work in." He said the final report "makes some positive recommendations, including toughening up fire testing and the improving the way buildings are certified as safe. It also looks at issues of competency and the need for more involvement of residents, although many of the problems relate to the initial construction, before there are any tenants to involve. Although the proposals will simplify the system they do not fully tackle many of the real problems around the need for a strong statutory approach to regulation."
Read more: TUC blog and TUC advice for union representatives on fire safety [pdf]. Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: final report [pdf], 17 May 2018. Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government report webpage. Hazards Campaign news release. Source: Risks 850.
IARC update: Identifying occupational carcinogens
This study updates previously published lists of known occupational carcinogens and provides additional information on cancer type, exposure scenarios and routes, and discusses trends in the identification of carcinogens over time. Data were extracted from International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs covering the years 1971–2017, using specific criteria to ensure occupational relevance and provide high confidence in the causality of observed exposure-disease associations.
The number of known occupational carcinogens has increased over time: 47 agents were identified as known occupational carcinogens in 2017 compared with 28 in 2004. These estimates are conservative and likely underestimate the number of carcinogenic agents present in workplaces. Exposure to these agents causes a wide range of cancers; cancers of the lung and other respiratory sites, followed by skin, account for the largest proportion. The dominant routes of exposure are inhalation and dermal contact. Important progress has been made in identifying occupational carcinogens; nevertheless, there is an ongoing need for research on the causes of work-related cancer. Most workplace exposures have not been evaluated for their carcinogenic potential due to inadequate epidemiologic evidence and a paucity of quantitative exposure data.
Read more: Dana Loomis, Neela Guha, Amy L Hall, Kurt Straif, Identifying occupational carcinogens: an update from the IARC Monographs [Open access] Occupational and Environmental Medicine; Online first http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2017-104944
Organisational change linked to costly sick leave
Modern workplaces face organisational change often. European researchers have identified the types of such change that are most strongly associated with sick leave.
A Danish study of almost 14,400 public healthcare employees found those who remained in the workplace after unit-level organisational change, particularly layoffs, were at a higher risk of long-term sickness absences (SA) of 29 days or more in the year after the change.
The researchers from the Copenhagen University Hospital and other bodies also found the rate of employees exiting a work unit increased in the year after a unit merger, demerger, relocation or change of management. "In general, those types of organisational changes associated with a higher exit rate were also associated with a higher risk of SA. This suggests that organisational change has a dual impact on subsequent work-unit exit and SA," said the researchers.
Read more: Johan Høy Jensen, et al, Dual impact of organisational change on subsequent exit from work unit and sickness absence: a longitudinal study among public healthcare employees. [Full article] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first May 2018, doi: oemed-2017-104865. Source: OHSAlert
Link between long hours, low job control and poor health
Korean researchers sought to investigate the combined effects of long working hours and low job control on self-rated health, by analyzing employees' data from the third Korean Working Conditions Survey (KWCS).
Despite a decreasing trend in working hours, Korea has one of the longest average working hours in comparison to other countries. There are several reasons for this: firstly Korean society has encouraged long working hours for better economic achievement and many employees accept that to achieve goals set by employers/supervisors they must work evenings. Secondly the legal minimum wage is too low to maintain healthy lives: workers earning near minimal wages working 40 hours a week cannot meet basic needs and so many extend working hours to earn more to support their cost of living. Thirdly, due to widespread job insecurity and poor social protection for the unemployed, even those earning a decent income in large companies want to make as much extra income as possible.
The researchers concluded that workers working more than 52 hours per week, with low job control, were 49 per cent more likely than others to report poor health. The health problems associated with long hours included sleep deprivation, depression and anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases.
They found workers working over 52 hours were 24 per cent more likely to report having poor health than those who did not. This compared with workers who had low job control, who were four per cent more likely to report poor health.
When the two factors (low job control and long hours) were combined the "effect of joint exposure was greater than the additive effect of both exposures", the study concluded.
Read more: Seong-Sik Cho, et al, The Combined Effect of Long Working Hours and Low Job Control on Self-Rated Health: An Interaction Analysis. [Full article] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Volume 60, Issue 5, May 2018. Source: OHSAlert
OHS Regulator News
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
The national body has now updated its website. As of 25 May 2018, there had been 55 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia - this is nine more since the last update on 11 May - nine more fatalities notified in a two week period. These fatalities were: four in Transport, postal and warehousing; two each in Agriculture, forestry & fishing, and in manufacturing; and one in the electricity, gas, water and waste services sector. The workers killed have been in the following industries:
- 21 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 13 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 10 Construction
- 3 Mining
- 3 Manufacturing
- 2 Electricity, gas, water & waste services
- 1 Administrative and support services
- 1 Information media & telecommunications
- 1 Wholesale trade
- 1 Rental, hiring and real estate
The numbers and industries may vary from one report to the next, as Safe Work receives more detailed information (to check for updates and more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage).
The latest monthly fatality report remains that for September 2017. During this month there were 12 reported work-related fatalities, eight workers and four bystanders - all male. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Over the past week there have been a number of prosecution outcomes loaded onto the WorkSafe website for incidents in which workers were crushed, had bits of their bodies amputated or caught in machines, fell from height, or were exposed to deadly asbestos.
Company fined after amputation
Baron Forge Contractors Pty Ltd (trading as the PazGroup of Companies) imports, supplies and installs stone for the construction sector. On 20 September 2015 a 30 year old employee was polishing stone benchtop sink holes using an overhead jib crane with a lifting attachment to lift the benchtop from one side of an A-Frame to the other. He had placed a rag between the attachment's clamps and a cut bench top to stop the stone from chipping - reducing the effectiveness of the clamps. He lifted the bench top about two metres off the ground - the stone slipped from the clamp and fell onto his right foot, resulting in the amputation of three toes.
The court found PazGroup had not provided a system of work to carry out this task which was, so far as was reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. It also failed to provide workers any or adequate information, instruction and training with respect to lifting the stone using the jib crane and lifting attachment by failing to provide adequate written procedures or instructions for the task and the hazards associated with it. The company was found guilty and was without conviction sentenced to pay a fine of $50,000 plus $29,000 costs.
Failing to comply with asbestos-related prohibition notice
In October 2016 Lexon Group Pty Ltd was commissioned to do building refurbishment works at a Morgan's IGA Supermarket (Morgan's). Morgan's provided Lexon with an asbestos register which indicated that the supermarket's vinyl floor tiles contained asbestos. On Tuesday 25 October employees of a registered Class B asbestos removalist began removing the tiles and by the end of the day had removed over 300 square metres, but there was more tiling to be removed. The store was closed and the areas sealed off with plastic. A clearance certificate was provided for the work completed. The next day a WorkSafe inspector attended the site and saw people removing tiles with a mechanical scraper which was generating dust. He directed that all refurbishment works cease and issued a prohibition notice to Lexon prohibiting any further work, but when he went back on 28 October he saw employees grinding floor areas, and others working in areas that were the subject of the prohibition notice. Lexon was charged with failing to comply with a prohibition notice, pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $8,000 plus $1,000 costs.
It is somewhat bizarre that the company was prosecuted for failing to comply with a prohibition notice, and not with putting the lives of workers and supermarket customers at risk by failing to comply with the asbestos regulations.
Lucky miss after machine tips over and crushes cars
Large equipment hire company Coates Hire Operations Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined in the Ballarat Magistrates' Court after a piece of machinery crushed two, luckily unoccupied, cars. On 25 August 2016, a Coates mechanic was doing maintenance testing of machines on hire at the Ararat Wind Farm. The testing of the equipment being used in the construction of wind turbines was done using Coates Telescopic Handler. The mechanic entered the cabin of the telehandler and began the testing. As it had been parked on sloping ground, the telehandler became unstable, tipped over and crushed the cars.
The court found Coates had failed to provide training on safe plant operation for maintenance that incorporated reading and understanding the plant load charts in order to assess the impact of the ground slope. The company pleaded guilty and convicted and fined $15,000 plus $3,479 in costs.
Worker's hand crushed, employer fined $25k
TJKJ Pty Ltd, trading as Hope Farm Bakery, is a bread and cake baking business supplying various shops and markets. On 14 October 2016 an employee was cleaning a Dough Moulder machine using a towel to clean off the dry dough on top andaround the rollers. While doing this he inadvertently hit the side of the red emergency stop button, causing the rollers to start moving. The towel was dragged in, dragging the worker's right hand in with it. Other employees had to to help him to get free. The worker's hand was broken and he required reconstruction surgery.
An investigation revealed the company did not ensure the machine was isolated before cleaning; instructions for cleaning the rollers of the machine were not posted in a clear and accessible position and the intake point of the in-running rollers of the machine was not guarded. Hope Farm Bakery pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $25,000, plus $2,500 costs.
Young worker's leg crushed - employer under 'adjourned undertaking'
Landscaping and plumbing company Earthwerx Pty Ltd was subcontracted to carry out landscaping work at a retirement village in Mornington. On 15 August 2017, while operating a Bobcat, a 23 year old Earthwerx employee needed to change the forklift attachment on the front to a bucket attachment. In the process of having to adjust the position of the attachment to insert a pin, and entering/exiting the cabin, his leg was crushed against the chassis, and he fractured his left tibia.
The company did not provide any information, instruction and training on the safe manner to enter and exit the Bobcat, and the worker was never instructed that no body part, under any circumstances, was to be placed between the chassis and bucket of the Bobcat. Nor was he provided with a copy of a document entitled "Earthwerx Pty Ltd Environment Health and Safety" which contained instructions. Earthwerx pleaded guilty and was without conviction sentenced to be released on an adjourned undertaking for 24 months with a special condition to pay $15,000 into the Court Fund, plus costs of $4,083.
Enforceable Undertaking after worker's thumb amputated
Deepcore Australia Pty Ltd, an earth drilling company, providing surface and underground drilling services for the hard rock and coal mining industries, has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with WorkSafe in lieu of prosecution.
The incident occurred on 15 May 2016, when there was a problem with a drill rig at the Fosterville Gold Mine. After hours removing and re-inserting casings, it was decided to modify a casing and insert it, which required two workers to hold it by hand. A third worker then activated a foot clamp, yelling 'fingers' as he did so. A 30kg rod then fell approximately 1 metre, landing on top of the modified casing. When it landed one fo the workers had his thumb over the top lip and the entire right thumb was amputated.
The EU involves the development and delivery of a safety leadership program, and publicising the incident both on its website and during OHS Week in October. The EU can be downloaded here [pdf].
Worker falls almost 3m; employer fails to notify
National freight transport business Mainfreight Distribution Pty Ltd, has been fined for a number of breaches, including failing to notify WorkSafe of an incident. On 20 December 2016, an employee was assisting a contractor to unload the mezzanine level of a semi-trailer. Despite its own systems of work on unloading and the need to use a forklift safety cage or step ladder when unloading from this level, neither of these 'was available' at the workplace. The contractor raised the employee, unrestrained, on the tynes of a forklift to re-position the freight on the mezzanine so that it could be unloaded by the forklift. The employee fell 2.9 metres onto a concrete floor and was injured.
Mainfreight did not immediately report the incident to WorkSafe. The company pleaded guilty to breaching 21(1)&(2)(a); 38(1) of the OHS Act, and was without conviction fined $25,000, plus $4,699 costs.
Worker falls through stairwell - Failing to provide safe workplace
Residential construction and renovation compnay Reborn Projects Pty Ltd, had engaged a subcontractor to supply, install and eventually remove scaffold to a residential extension underway in Brunswick. On 15 November 2016, the subcontractor scaffolding crew arrived to install scaffold. A Reborn representative was also onsite. The scaffolding crew leader accessed the second storey of the structure via ladder, through a stair void, which was unprotected. He was standing near the void as the crew passed scaffold components up to him, and was also discussing the job with Reborn's representative. He stepped on a timber brace which gave way, and fell through the void to the floor.
Reborn Projects failed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health in that it failed to install stair void protection or failed to ensure that stair void protection was installed before any work was performed in the vicinity. The company pleaded guilty to breaching s26 of the OHS Act, and was without conviction fined $10,000, plus $3,505 costs.
Another fall from a stairwell
Francesco Taraborrelli, building six multi-level townhouses Carrum, the architect, builder and owner of the project, engaged contractors to perform building works, including in and around the internal stairwell voids. On 17 August 2015, a plastering subcontractor had been on a temporary scaffold for just seconds when it collapsed. He fell between 2.5 to 3 metres to a concrete floor, and sustained a fractured heel, two compression fractures in his spine and assorted abrasions.
Taraborrelli failed to provide an adequate scaffold system with a solid construction base and failed to provide a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) identifying the risks of working at a height of greater than two metres and providing for suitable control measures. He pleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $20,000, plus $15,064 in costs.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
Sawmill fined after employee loses his leg
A sawmill has been fined after a worker's leg was cut off by a saw. Sunderland Magistrates' Court heard that, in July 2016, the employee of A&J Scott Limited attempted to clear a blockage on the conveyor feed and edger machine. As he climbed onto the machine he was caught by the moving parts, pushed forward and his trailing leg was amputated below the knee by the saw blade. An investigation by the UK's regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had not ensured measures were taken to prevent access to the dangerous moving parts of the sawmilling equipment. The sawmill also failed to safeguard employees who would be working at height on the machine and take steps to prevent employees standing on the machinery when it was live, and in a state that it could be turned on at any time. A&J Scott Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £400,000 (A$707,785) and ordered to pay costs of £3,392 (A$6,000). HSE inspector Paul Wilson said: "Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers. Had this been done then this worker would not have received life changing injuries".
Read more: HSE news release. Northumberland Gazette.
Double-investigation leads to massive fine
A UK car parts manufacturer has been fined £1.6m (A$2.83m) after a Legionnaires' disease outbreak and an explosion occurred at the same plant within a year. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted Faltec Europe Limited in relation to both incidents. Five people became seriously ill following the Legionnaires' disease outbreak and one worker suffered serious burns from the explosion.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that between October 2014 and June 2015, two employees, two agency workers and a local resident fell seriously ill with Legionnaires Disease. HSE found the illness was caused by Faltec's failure to effectively manage its water cooling systems within the factory, causing the legionella bacteria within the water supply to grow to potentially lethal levels.
In relation to the explosion incident, the same court heard that on 16 October 2015, an operator attempted to recover a part that came off production rollers. Dduring normal production there is an explosive atmosphere within the machine. The part he was retrieving came into contact with an electrostatic grid, creating a spark and causing a dust explosion. The 19-year-old man suffered first degree burns to his face and arms. HSE found that adequate measures were not put in place to protect operators from explosion risks, this was despite previous explosions having occurred.
Read more: HSE news release