Failed safety effort results in injury and fine

Wednesday, 05 November, 2008

SafeWork SA is urging any workplace engaged in improving its safety infrastructure to ensure that the process itself does not put anyone at risk. The agency issued the warning after an Adelaide automotive component maker was fined $13,500 by an Industrial Magistrate in October over an injury to a worker.

Cooper Standard Automotive was charged for breaching section 19(1) of the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986 in failing to provide plant in a safe condition, safe systems of work and information, instruction, training and supervision as was necessary.

SafeWork SA prosecuted the firm after investigating an incident at the company’s premises in December 2005. During a late shift, the male worker suffered crush injuries to his finger while attempting to change tools on a machine that makes spark plug tubes. Earlier that day, work was undertaken to fit an interlock switch to a safety access gate, the idea being that when the gate was opened, the machine would power down. While the installation was completed, the electrical wiring was not and there was nothing to indicate to the worker that the machine was still energised when the access gate was opened.

The company admitted that it had not followed its own procedures that should have seen a yellow tag placed either on the machine or the gate to indicate the upgrade was incomplete.

Industrial Magistrate Michael Ardlie noted that a communication lapse created the window of opportunity for something to go wrong: “Unfortunately the procedures in place did not state as to who was required to ensure that appropriate lockout steps had taken place. Further, not all employees had been trained in lockout procedures.”

SafeWork SA executive director Michele Patterson said the sad irony of this case was that the incident occurred during a safety improvement: “While the work was undertaken with the best of intentions, the failure to properly define the chain of responsibility and action over safety left an employee to pay a high price in pain and suffering.”

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