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Melbourne man loses thumb, employer fined $30,000

(Image: Getty)

A Melbourne company has been fined $30,000 after an employee had a thumb amputated after a workplace accident.

Dandenong Magistrates Court heard that in July 2017 the 28-year-old machine operator was collecting metal bars that had been shaped in a metal-shaping machine at Melbourne business OneSteel Reinforcing Pty Ltd.

But as he went to remove one of the bars, his left thumb got caught between a guard and a conveyor belt.

The man was taken to hospital where the thumb was amputated.

A 10mm gap between the fixed metal guard and the conveyor, according to a WorkSafe investigation, allowed enough space for the worker’s finger to be exposed to the machinery.

OneSteel Reinforcing did perform a safety audit of the machine before the accident but failed to identify the gap as a risk, the court heard.

WorkSafe executive director Julie Nielsen said inadequate protective barriers can have devastating consequences.

“This horrific and debilitating kind of injury should not be occurring in the 21st century, yet machine guarding remains one of the state’s biggest workplace safety issues,” she said.

“Employers must make sure approved physical barriers or guards are fitted to all moving machine parts that can have contact with any part of the body.”

OneSteel pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to “provide and maintain a safe working environment”.

The $30,000 fine was handed down without a conviction recorded, in consideration of the early guilty plea and its previously unblemished record. The employer was also ordered to pay WorkSafe $5,000 for legal costs.

WorkSafe Victoria last year investigated 33 cases of machine entrapment where there was insufficient guarding.

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