Equipment manufacturer fined for providing confusing information

Friday, 26 June, 2009

Equipment manufacturer Extec Sales & Distribution Australia was recently convicted and fined $140,000 after a County Court jury was told maintenance instructions provided by it were "hopelessly inadequate" at a trial involving the death of a man inside a rock crusher supplied by Extec, while carrying out routine maintenance on it in 2005 at a Donnybrook quarry in Victoria.

Judge Philip Coish imposed the fine, saying Extec failed to provide accurate information in a manual for a rock crusher in which a man died and that it was inconsistent with the instructions provided by an employee. Extec pleaded not guilty to breaching a section of the Health and Safety Act which covers the duties of manufacturers of plant.

The company was charged under Section 24(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985, which covers the duties of manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant. Under the OHS Act 2004, these duties are covered under Section 29 ('Duties of manufacturers of plant or substances' and Section 30 'Duties of suppliers of plant or substances'.)

Part of the crusher, a steel plate weighing 1.3 tonnes, fell from its mounts and hit the man who was in the crusher box. Although he was an experienced quarry maintenance person, it is not clear why he was in the crusher box.

It was alleged the manual supplied with the machine and the verbal instructions provided by Extec were “hopelessly inadequate” and that the printed instructions were “confusing, unclear and wrong”.

The judge said that was a “glaring defect”, that the training provided by the company was “completely unsatisfactory” and that the “task to be performed was inherently dangerous and had clear and significant risks”.

Crushers of the same type were re-commissioned after the incident.

WorkSafe’s Executive Director John Merritt said the message to manufacturers, distributors and retailers of equipment used in any workplace was clear: “Use and maintenance instructions must be clear and easily understood. Safety issues must be addressed, while training and support services must be consistent with the formal instructions provided.”

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