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Prosecution Details

Defendant West Australian Newspapers Limited
Section 19(1) and 19(7)
Offence Date Monday, 30 August 2004
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer failed, so far as was practicable, to provide and maintain a working environment in which employees were not exposed to hazards, and by that failure caused serious harm to an employee; contrary to sections 19(1) and 19(7) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The accused is a wholly owned subsidiary of West Australian Newspapers Holdings Limited that operates a newspaper production and publication business. The accused employs persons to work in the West Australian Newspaper production complex at Osborne Park.

Many of the inserts (booklets) for the Saturday edition of the West Australian Newspaper are printed throughout the week and stored until they are need to be inserted into the Saturday paper on Friday night/Saturday morning. After the inserts are printed they are wound onto large cassettes for storage. When the inserts are needed the cassette is loaded on a Ferag Rotadisc Unwinding Unit that unwinds the inserts off the cassette and passes them along a conveyor belt to another item of plant that inserts the inserts into a newspaper. There are 16 of these Unwinding Units at the production complex in Osborne Park.

As the Unwinding Unit is unwinding inserts an employee of the accused is allocated to act as the 'Unwinder Monitor' to watch the inserts as they come off the cassette and to realign or remove misaligned or damaged inserts. As at 30 August 2004 the Unwinder Monitors were required to do this while the Unwinding Unit continued in operation unless there was a large jam that required the Unwinding Unit to be stopped. There was a written 'safe operating procedure' in place requiring the Unwinder Monitor to remove twisted or unsuitable copies from over the top of the stream and not from the sides, and never to put his or her hands near the separator or in the area in front of the cassette or anywhere in the buffer section when the machine was working. That procedure also required Unwinder Monitors to always have sleeves buttoned up or rolled up, shirt tucked in, no clothing tied around the waist and any long hair pulled back and fastened or worn under a cap so as not to fall down near the machinery. Also all jewellery must be removed and gloves must not be worn.

The area where the conveyor belt of the Unwinding Unit meets metal wheels where the conveyor commences underneath the cassette is a pinch point where fingers or hands can be drawn in and injured. As at 30 August 2004 this pinch point was not guarded so as to prevent any body part from becoming caught in the pinch point on any of the 16 Unwinding Units at the workplace.

On 30 August 2004 an employee was allocated to act as the Unwinder Monitor on one of the Unwinding Units at the workplace. At about 1am the employee noticed that the cassette that was on her Unwinding Unit had a bunch of damaged inserts at the end of the cassette. Another person was allocated to assist her to reach onto the conveyor belt and remove the damaged inserts. That person stood to her right side and as a consequence she moved to stand slightly closer to the beginning of the conveyor underneath the cassette. As she reached in with both hands to pick up the damaged copies she got her fingers caught in the pinch point of the Unwinding Unit. She sustained crush injuries and lacerations to three fingers of her left hand. Her left index finger was so badly damaged the tip of the finger had to be amputated. She also sustained nerve damage to her finger that causes pain in that finger.

Between 2000 and 30 August 2004 there had been three prior incidents where employees of the accused had received injuries to their fingers while attempting to straighten or remove inserts from the Unwinding Units.

Following the injury to the employee guards were put in place on all Unwinding Units that prevents body parts from coming into contact with the pinch point of the Unwinding Unit where the conveyor commences underneath the cassette.

It would have been practicable of the accused to ensure that guards were in place on all the Unwinders before 30 August 2004.

The accused pleaded guilty.

Outcome Summary Convicted
Conviction Date 02 Sep 2005
Court Magistrates Court of WA - Perth
Fine $15,000
Costs $618.45
Charge Number 34817/05