Dan­ger in work­place


Wanneroo Times - - Front Page - Mark Don­ald­son

A NOWER GUP lime­stone com­pany has been fined more than $60,000 for hav­ing a haz­ardous work­place af­ter a young em­ployee be­came en­tan­gled in a block mak­ing ma­chine last year, lead­ing to the loss of his leg and se­ri­ous in­ter­nal in­juries.

Lime­stone Build­ing Blocks Com­pany Pty Ltd faced Joon­dalup Mag­is­trates Court for sen­tenc­ing on Fri­day af­ter­noon in re­la­tion to the trauma suf­fered by labourer Dane Smith on Jan­uary 25, 2017.

The hear­ing fol­lowed the com­pany’s guilty plea at its first hear­ing two weeks ago to a charge of fail­ing “to pro­vide and main­tain a work­ing en­vi­ron­ment at a mine where em­ploy­ees are not ex­posed to haz­ards”.

Mr Smith was at­tempt­ing to re­move lime­stone residue from in­side the ma­chine when he ac­ti­vated the au­to­matic build­ing process.

The ma­chine com­pleted one build­ing cy­cle with him trapped in­side it be­fore an em­ployee rushed to save him. Mr Smith’s in­juries in­cluded an am­pu­tated leg, fractures to his spine and pelvis and rup­tures to his liver and kid­neys.

Mag­is­trate Deen Pot­ter fined the com­pany $65,000, re­duced from $140,000 be­cause its early guilty plea saved Mr Smith “the trauma and emo­tional roller­coaster” of a lengthy court process.

Speak­ing out­side court, com­pany lawyer Tim Houwel­ing said the penalty was “sig­nif­i­cant” and would have a “se­ri­ous im­pact on a fam­ily-owned com­pany”.

“The fam­ily-owned com­pany of­fers the high­est stan­dard of safety to its em­ploy­ees but some­times, re­gret­tably, there’s in­ci­dents that oc­cur where an em­ployee acts out­side the scope of their im­me­di­ate author­ity,” he said,

“It’s sad there were events that had cat­a­strophic in­juries and con­se­quences as a re­sult. We’re glad that it’s all over and look­ing for­ward to get­ting on with busi­ness.”

Mr Houwel­ing said the com­pany un­der­stood Mr Smith was re­cov­er­ing and there would be an op­por­tu­nity for him to con­tinue work­ing for the busi­ness.

He ar­gued in court that while the com­pany ad­mit­ted to a breach of safety, Mr Smith had acted against in­struc­tions not to go in the ma­chine. Mr Smith had been an em­ployee for 18 months. “He had just been put on full-time so he was look­ing to im­press and he just stepped over the line,” he said.

Mr Smith’s first words when he woke up in hos­pi­tal “were some­thing to the ef­fect of ‘I f **** d up’,” ac­cord­ing to Mr Houwel­ing.

The court heard the ma­chine op­er­ated with a two-key sys­tem and, for safety rea­sons, it was only meant to have one key left in it. It was also meant to have safety mesh at­tached to it to pre­vent ac­cess to the block-mak­ing area.

There were two keys in the ma­chine and the safety mesh was miss­ing when the ac­ci­dent hap­pened.

Mr Houwel­ing said this was the rea­son they were plead­ing guilty.

The Depart­ment of Mines and Petroleum pros­e­cu­tor ar­gued the com­pany should ac­cept full re­spon­si­bil­ity.

He as­serted Mr Smith should have un­der­gone a more thor­ough train­ing process.

“It’s not enough for a su­per­vi­sor sim­ply to have said ‘do not put your hands in there, that’s haz­ardous’,” he said.

In hand­ing down his sen­tence, Mr Pot­ter ac­cepted the com­pany’s ac­tions were not “in a man­ner of reckless dis­re­gard”.

But he said Mr Smith should never have had ac­cess to the in­side of the ma­chine while there were two keys in it.

“The em­ployee’s cat­a­strophic in­juries speak for them­selves,” he said. “It’s not some­thing a com­pany, let alone a fam­ily busi­ness, would want to have as­so­ci­ated with its name.”

He ac­knowl­edged the com­pany had since spent more than $1 mil­lion im­prov­ing its safety stan­dards.

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