Company fined after worker injures hand in Hippo mixer
A Brisbane and Gold Coast flooring company has been fined $50,000 and ordered to pay costs of $2846 after a young labourer suffered serious injuries when his hand became caught in a portable mixer. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 by failing to comply with its health and safety duties and exposing a worker to a risk of death or serious injury.
The company supplied seamless resin flooring and had been subcontracted to lay an epoxy floor in a commercial business. The company engaged a labour hire company that provided an 18-year-old labourer who had three years of construction industry experience.
A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) investigation revealed that on 16 November 2017, the labourer attended the workplace and signed a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) before being supervised by another employee, who provided information on mixing resin and chemicals.
The worker was trained in the use of the Hippo mixer, an 85-litre portable mixer, and was instructed to scrape down the sides of the mixer using a steel rod, although it is unclear whether he was told to do so while the mixer was on or off.
The labourer mixed 20–30 batches of resin throughout the day, scraping the machine’s sides while it was operational. While performing the work, the steel rod become caught in the machine’s mixing blade and pulled the labourer’s hand in. The labourer sustained a fractured left wrist and finger and some soft tissue injuries.
In sentencing, Magistrate Judith Daley considered the defendant’s lack of prior convictions, its cooperation with the investigation and the guilty plea. The Magistrate accepted that the labourer received some training but commented that it was not adequate, noting that the SWMS related to the safe handling of chemicals required for resin mixing rather than use of the Hippo mixer.
The family-owned flooring company should have provided adequate instruction, training and supervision on using the Hippo mixer, and provided information to workers on its hazards. The company should have also ensured that workers followed the instructions to keep hands and objects clear while the machine was operating.
The company also failed to check on the injured labourer throughout the day, as he carried out 20–30 mixes without turning off the Hippo mixer. The Magistrate noted that the company was a family company that had traded for 40 years and had not been convicted of any other WHS breaches, and had implemented significant changes post-incident, including no longer using the Hippo mixer.
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