Finger amputations lead to significant fines


An 18-year-old worker 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.

Trading as Basic Trailers, the young workers Adelaide employer LC Investing was fined $180,000 in the South Australian Employment Tribunal following a SafeWork SA investigation.

He lost five fingers in only his second week in the job.

An initial fine of $300,000 was imposed on the company before the tribunal applied a 40 per cent reduction – the result of contrition and an early guilty plea.

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.

In his sentencing remarks, Deputy President Stephen 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 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.”