Company fined after worker's fingers caught in roller

Monday, 03 June, 2024

Company fined after worker's fingers caught in roller

Warrnambool roofing manufacturer Uniroll Roofing Pty Ltd has been convicted and fined $40,000 after a worker suffered serious injuries when they were told to bypass a machine’s safeguards to clean it. The company pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to provide or maintain a safe system of work and one charge of failing to provide employees with necessary information, instruction or training. The company was also ordered to pay $4207 in costs.

An inexperienced worker, who had only started at the company a week earlier and had not received any documented training, was tasked with operating a metal forming press, which rolled metal sheets through a series of rollers, in April 2022. The worker noticed that the rollers were depositing marks on the metal and shut the machine down to clean them. Seeing this, the company’s co-owner advised there was a more effective way to clean the rollers and showed the worker how to program the machine to bypass the interlock guarding and clean the rollers while they were still operating.

Seconds later, the scouring pad the worker was using became caught in a roller and dragged his hand into the machine, crushing and degloving two of his fingers. The worker required multiple surgeries and was not able to return to full-time duties until August 2022, when his employment was terminated.

WorkSafe Victoria alleges that it was reasonably practicable for the company to implement a lock-out tag procedure requiring workers to turn the machine off and isolate power to it before cleaning. The company should have also provided adequate information, instruction and training on this procedure.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said WorkSafe will not hesitate to take action when employers do not put the safety of workers first. “It is incredibly alarming that this inexperienced worker was put in harm’s way by someone in authority who they should have been able to rely on to keep them safe. It is simply unacceptable to take shortcuts on safety and fail to ensure there are safe systems of work and appropriate information, instruction and training for workers to do the job safely,” Beer said.

To clean plant and equipment safely, WorkSafe Victoria advises employers to undertake a risk assessment to identify any hazards and assess how to remove or control them. A documented procedure must also be in place, detailing how to power down and isolate equipment; the procedure must also be available in a worker’s first language.

Employers are also advised to ensure that machines are powered down, fully secured and stable before cleaning begins. Machinery should also be properly guarded, with safety interlocks regularly checked. WorkSafe advises employers to ensure workers are properly trained and supervised so they understand the procedure and the risks associated with the plant and equipment being cleaned.

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