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Missing machine guard leads to penalty and crushed thumb

A tubing and electrical components manufacturer in South Australia has been fined $28,000 plus legal fees after an employee’s right thumb was crushed by a crimping machine where the guard was not in place.

SafeWork SA prosecuted Tubing and Electrical Industries under the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 for failing to provide and maintain plant in a safe condition, notably failing to ensure a guard was correctly fitted to the machine.

On 25 July 2011, an employee was operating a machine where the guard had been moved away from the crimping jaws for better visual access.

The tip of the employee’s thumb became caught between the jaws. The injury has resulted in long-term nerve loss, and the employee received hand therapy for nine months before being able to return to full-time work.

In his decision Magistrate Michael Ardlie said: “The bypassing of the guarding is a significantly serious transgression on the part of the defendant.”

Magistrate Ardlie acknowledged that the company reacted appropriately after the incident by securing the guard in position and adopting a Standard Operating Procedure for the machine.

The defendant faced a maximum penalty of $300,000. The court imposed a fine of $40,000, with a 30 per cent reduction to $28,000 for the defendant’s early guilty plea, demonstration of contrition and cooperation with SafeWork SA.

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