WHSQ successfully prosecutes two sawmilling operators after workers sustain injuries
Two separate Queensland sawmilling operators have received significant fines following injuries to workers during the operation of the plant.
On 19 May 2023, a sawmill operator was fined $50,000 in the Maryborough Magistrates Court for breaching section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (The Act) after a worker’s finger was partly amputated while preparing a multi-saw for cleaning.
Although workers at the plant had received training, no written procedures existed for cleaning the multi-saw, which required cleaning at least three times a day.
The process involved two workers, one of whom would remove nuts and spacers and then give a verbal ‘all clear’ to his co-worker, who would then press a button to raise the machine and allow it to be cleaned.
On 27 July 2021, the worker’s spanner became stuck while removing the nuts. The co-worker then raised the machine before it was ready, crushing his left index finger between the nut and the machine. While trying to pull his finger out of the machine, it became amputated.
WHSQ determined that an engineering control should have been implemented to ensure that the machine was unable to be operated until both workers were ready.
In a separate matter, a company was fined $60,000 in the Warwick Magistrates Court for a section 32 offence under the Act, having failed to comply with its primary health and safety duty after a worker sustained serious injuries to his right foot.
One of the machines the business used was a chipper which converted timber offcuts into wood chips.
Although the machine regularly jammed, no person was allocated to undertake this task, nor did any written procedures exist.
In evidence presented to the court, it emerged that workers had developed their own individual procedures to deal with blockages.
On 30 November 2020, a worker attempted to clear a blockage with a metal bar while the machine was still operating. His right foot became caught in an exposed chain that drives the conveyor belt, resulting in serious injuries, including an amputation of his right big toe and a separate toe fracture.
The court determined that there were insufficient guards on the machine, work procedures did not exist, and the employer had failed to train the employees in safe operations adequately.
No convictions were recorded in either case.
For queries about safety, safe operation of plant, dealing with inspectors, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529, 0417 622 178 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.