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Worker loses hand: Employer fined $90,000

(Photo by Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

A $90,000 penalty has been imposed on a company after an employee had his hand amputated due to a workplace incident.

The Melbourne Magistrates' Court this week handed down the fine on JBS Australia Pty Ltd after the company pleaded guilty to one charge related to not providing a safe work environment.

The court heard the staff member was working on a production line that removes the skin from sheep carcasses that were missed by a machine.

The man had a chain wrapped around his wrist, which became entangled in the backup machine, dragged him in, and amputated his left wrist and hand.

"This worker suffered a horrific, life changing injury while operating hazardous machinery because a safe system of work was not in place," said WorkSafe Victoria executive director Julie Nielsen.

Just before the incident the main skinning machine had missed a number of carcasses, the court heard, and JBS staff quickly attached chains and straps to the backup machine – all while the machine was still running.

The injured employee testified that this was common procedure when work was busy.

After the incident, JBS deactivated the back-up machine and bought new machinery.

Nielsen said there was no reason to put workers at risk by not switching off machines when necessary or continuing to run unsafe infrastructure.

"Employers must ensure the safety of their workers is always their first priority."

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