Calls for companies to take preventive action to reduce accidents

Safe Work Australia recently published a report Work-related injuries resulting in hospitalisation (July 2006 to June 2009) which found that over the three-year period the most common specific place of occurrence for incidents that led to a work-related hospitalisation was ‘factory and plant’.

Factory and plant accounted for 16% of work-related hospitalisations – nearly 1.5 times ‘farm’ (11%) and nearly double construction (9%).

The report found that injuries to the wrist and hand were responsible for 38% of work-related hospitalisations: by far the most common part of the body injured among workers who experienced a work-related hospitalisation over the period June 2006 to July 2009.

Using a sharp edged tool, operating powered plant or machinery that was not properly guarded, using a powered hand tool or appliance that was not properly guarded or that locked, and preparing food with an appliance or a knife, were the most common activities associated with injuries to the hand and wrist.

Guarding was a problem in a sizable minority of the injuries, as was locking or jamming power tools.

Amputation was the reported injury for 5% of work-related hospitalisations, nearly all of which involved the wrist and hand (4.9% of all work-related hospitalisations) since most involved the amputation of finger/s or thumb.

Notably, slightly more than one-in-ten (12%) manufacturing workers that were hospitalised for a work-related injury experienced an amputation.

This was more than double the proportion recorded for hospitalised workers in other hazardous industries such as agriculture, forestry and fishing (4.7%) and construction (4.8%).

Scott Moffat, Pilz Safe Automation.According to Pilz Safe Automation Managing Director, Scott Moffat (pictured alongside), these figures should be a wake up call to those running factories and operating plant and machinery.

“A simple risk assessment could have prevented many of these injuries and amputations occurring,” Moffat said.

“Fortunately we are now seeing the courts consistently taking a dim view of companies (and individuals) that fail to provide the proper safe working environment with machinery.

"In a recent court case in Geelong, a labour hire company was ordered to spend $200,000 improving safety on its clients’ machinery after a worker was dragged hip-deep into inadequately guarded rollers.

“Under the new Harmonised Work, Health & Safety Act there is a stronger focus on those involved in the design, manufacture, importation, supply and modification of plant and machinery to ensure that the plant is without risks to health and safety.

“While Victoria hasn’t adopted the legislation, we have seen Worksafe Victoria highlighting the dangers of operating machinery in its recent ‘Dangerous Machines’ advertising campaign.

"The campaign was in response to statistics that show that six Victoria workers are maimed every day and seven workers suffer an amputation every month.

“The Safe Work Australia report clearly shows that more needs to be done to reduce the incidence of worker injury and hospitalisation.

"The focus must remain on preventing each and every one of these accidents – they are preventable – and whether it’s through fines, new legislation or advertising campaigns, machine safety must be improved,” noted Moffat.

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