Manufacturer prosecuted for lack of information

A Victorian County Court judge has convicted and fined what he called 'a small business in difficult times' $80,000 after it failed to provide safety information about its products to its customers.

A VICTORIAN County Court judge has convicted and fined what he called “a small business in difficult times” $80,000 after it failed to provide safety information about its products to its customers.

Knoxfield company, Jalor Tools, pleaded guilty to two workplace safety charges relating to a router tool (bit) that broke into three pieces one of which struck a woman in the chest, killing her on 21 December 2006.

The woman was the daughter of the owner of an East Bentleigh door manufacturer and was using an industrial router to make the design on the front of a door when the router tool broke.

It was not alleged Jalor Tools’ failings were responsible for the 31-year-old woman’s death.

WorkSafe’s investigation of the incident found the router tool was to be operated at between 6000 and 8000rpm although it was actually operating around 15,000 rpm.

During sentencing, Judge Phillip Coish said in manufacturing the router tool, Jalor Tools failed to mark it with a maximum operating speed, nor did it provide written information about the safe operating speed.

WorkSafe’s acting Executive Director, Stan Krpan said the case illustrated the legal requirement of manufactures, suppliers and retailers to provide adequate information about their products to end-users to ensure they were used safely.

“Businesses designing, supplying and manufacturing equipment to be used in workplaces also have obligations to the safety of workers who are the end users of that equipment.”

“Control of the ultimate use of the tool may not be possible, however at the point at which it is sold, or even hired, information must be provided.”

“For a small business this is a significant penalty and, in this case, is likely to have a serious impact on this firm.”

“Employers also have an obligation to ensure the equipment used by their business is fit for the purpose intended.”

Krpan said all businesses should look to cases like this and consider their own safety obligations.

“For businesses coming out of tough economic times and buying or updating equipment, now is the time to ensure it meets safety obligations by referring to WorkSafe and any appropriate Australian Standards.

“In this case an Australian Standard (AS1473.2-2001 covers rotating tools of this type, but Judge Coish found Jalor Tools was not aware of the standard.”

“Meeting, and ideally exceeding, OHS requirements can add value to your product and protect the reputation and viability of the business. Not doing so can lead to disaster,” Krpan said.

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