Finger amputations lead to $180K fine for trailer company!

An Adelaide trailer manufacturer has been fined $180,000 after a young worker lost five fingers in only his second week in the job.

The 18-year-old suffered partial finger amputations to both index and middle fingers and to his left ring finger while working with an inadequately guarded guillotine in November 2020.

His Pooraka-based employer LC Investing, trading as Basic Trailers, was fined $180,000 in the South Australian Employment Tribunal last week following a SafeWork SA investigation.

His Honour Deputy President Stephen Lieschke initially imposed a $300,000 fine, before applying a 40 per cent reduction as a result of contrition and an early guilty plea.

Basic Trailers pleaded guilty to the guarding offence under Section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012.

The business was found to have failed to comply with its duty to ensure the worker’s safety, so far as was reasonably practicable, when he was operating a 3-metre long Hydraulic Swing Beam Sheer guillotine to cut steel checker plate.

The inadequate existing guard was hinged and balanced so it could be raised to a fixed position while the guillotine operated. Additionally, there were three gaps where a hand could easily pass under the guard in its fully closed position, and the rear of the guillotine was also unguarded.

Basic Trailers promptly and easily fixed the guard in place. It later replaced the guillotine with a new fully guarded machine.

The young worker returned to work about four months after the incident but resigned soon after.

His severed fingers were not able to be re-attached.

A conviction was recorded against Basic Trailers and a Victims of Crime Levy of $405 imposed.

In his sentencing remarks, Deputy President Lieschke said the foreseeable risk of multiple partial finger amputations was realised.

‘The teenaged victim has suffered significant life-long impairments,’ he said.

‘It resulted from an unexplained disregard of the need for the best possible guarding that was reasonably practicable.

‘The victim’s youth and inexperience are aggravating factors of this offending, in the circumstances of poor training and being allocated solo work on the guillotine by his second week of employment.

‘That is because reliance on weak administrative hazard controls necessarily puts a young inexperienced worked at greater risk of injury until they develop the experience, familiarity, and judgement about how to avoid a poorly controlled hazard.’

SafeWork SA Acting Executive Director Glenn Farrell said the lack of adequate guarding on machinery was a major cause of serious injury.

‘We are seeing these types of injuries far too often, which is frustrating because they can be easily prevented,’ he said.

‘This case also highlights the importance for of adequate training and supervision of inexperienced workers.

‘This workplace incident could also have been easily avoided if plant was maintained in a safe condition and safe systems of work had been implemented.

‘As a result, a young person unnecessarily sustained injuries that may continue to impact him for the rest of his life.’