Teen apprentice loses tips of two fingers

The Industrial Court has fined a Lonsdale manufacturer which left a young employee with a loss of the tips of two fingers and serious lacerations to a third, while operating a machine saw.

Farquhars KI had already pleaded guilty to breaching section 19(1) of the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986, in failing to ensure the safety of an employee at work, and providing safe systems of work.

SafeWork SA prosecuted after investigating an incident in October 2007 at the company’s Lonsdale premises, where it runs a kitchen manufacturing business.

A 17 year old male employed as an apprentice cabinet maker had been tasked to trim the edges off a small piece of board using a panel saw.

In doing so, his right hand made contact with the cutting blade which led to his injuries.

According to WorkSafe SA, the youth was eventually able to return to work and remains with the company as a qualified tradesperson.

SafeWork SA submitted to the court that the employer’s safe work procedures were insufficient to manage the risk of injury that was present, in that:

• There were no written safe operating procedures provided on use of the machine
• There no written guidelines on the size of wooden panels that could be safely cut
• The operating manual for the panel saw was stored elsewhere
• The hazard identification and risk assessment for the machine were inadequate.

In his penalty decision, Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke strongly emphasised the value of written instructions, particularly with regard to young workers.

“It sets out a consistent procedure and is in the nature of a rule. The committing of the procedures to writing implies a more formal set of rules or guidelines and suggests that they are not optional,” said Lieschke.

“Written procedures imply that shortcuts or deviations are not permitted. Such written instructions provide clear guidelines and boundaries to assist holding back enthusiastic inexperienced teenagers” he said.

According to SafeWork SA, he recorded a conviction and fined the company $14,000 following a discount of 20% for its guilty plea, cooperation, contrition and remedial action on its safety systems.

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