Machine guarding warnings follow mill injury

Thursday, 15 March, 2007

SafeWork SA has warned industry that safety guards for old or little-used machines, and proper training in their use, are a must in every workplace.

The agency issued the warning after the SA Industrial Relations Court fined a timber firm $20,000 over a serious hand injury suffered by a worker two years ago.

The company had pleaded guilty to breaching Section 19 of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986, in failing to ensure that an employee was safe from injury and risks to health, whilst at work.

The prosecution by SafeWork SA arose from an incident in February 2005 in which a female worker lost part of her left index finger while working with a bandsaw.

The court heard the incident happened within 90 minutes of the worker commencing duties on the machine with a colleague.

The industrial magistrate found the company had failed to adequately guard the blade; failed to adequately guard the drive belts and pulleys; and failed to provide reasonably necessary instruction, training and supervision.

Despite three pages of safe operating instructions being attached to one side of the machine, the court also heard that proper guarding was given a low priority because the machine was used only occasionally.

SafeWork SA executive director, Michele Patterson said there can never be low priorities with workplace safety.

"If a piece of plant or equipment has the potential to kill or injure no matter how infrequently it's used, it must be managed accordingly in terms of guarding and safety training for employees."

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