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Prosecution Details

Defendant Pinetec Limited
Section 21(1)(b) and 21(3)
Offence Date Thursday, 29 January 2004
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer failed to ensure, so far as was practicable, that the safety or health of a person not being its employee was not adversely affected as a result of the work in which it or any of its employees was engaged and by that failure caused serious harm to a person; contrary to sections 21(1)(b) and 21(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The accused was engaged in the milling, treatment and processing of timber, which in some cases involved the manufacture of timber products such as pallets and crates.

The accused's work process involved the delivery of logs to its mill and the transport of those logs along a series of conveyors within the mill. At different stages along the conveyors the logs were processed. The work was carried out by employees of the accused and employees of various labour hire companies who supplied labour to the accused.

On 13 October 2003 a person who was employed by a labour hire company began work at the timber mill pursuant to a labour hire agreement between the labour hire company and the accused. The person was shown by the accused's cleaning supervisor how to clear blockages from the conveyors in the mill.

On 29 January 2004 at about 6pm the person was carrying out his cleaning duties for the accused in the mill when he noticed that the conveyor that transported oversized woodchips back around to the wood chipper was blocked. He tried to unblock the conveyor in the way that he had been shown by the supervisor. He had done this on about 50 prior occasions. This involved leaning forward over the yellow guardrail that surrounded the conveyor and reaching into it to clear the blockage with his hand.

However, when he leant forward over the guardrail his right foot slipped on some woodchips and he fell forward pushing his left hand into the pinch point where the top and bottom belts of the conveyor met. The conveyor caught the glove that he was wearing and pulled his left hand and arm into the conveyor bending and twisting it around the head pulley.

The pinch point of the conveyor was not guarded and there was no emergency stop button within his reach. He screamed for help but no one could hear him over the noise of the machinery in the mill. The conveyor continued to pull his hand and arm through it until his hand jammed the machine.

After about 10 minutes a person working in the factory next door to the mill heard him calling for help, climbed over the fence that surrounded the mill and came to help. However, neither person knew how to stop the conveyor so he found another worker in the mill who was able to turn off the conveyor. Two machine fitters and the supervisor then spent about 20 minutes trying unsuccessfully to free the injured person from the conveyor. Eventually the conveyor belt was cut and he was freed from the conveyor.

The injured person's left hand and arm was cut and burnt, and bone could be seen in his hand. He was taken to Royal Perth Hospital where he underwent several operations during which part of his hand was removed and skin grafts carried out. Subsequent to the offence the accused placed a guard over the pinch point of the conveyor and installed emergency stop buttons throughout its mill.

In 2000 a WorkSafe Inspector issued Improvement Notices to the accused which related to an unguarded saw and to an unguarded conveyor in the mill, which was the same conveyor, which resulted in this injury. The notice was issued to a senior employee who was still employed by the accused at the date of the offence.

In 2003 a WorkSafe Inspector issued an Improvement Notice which related to the accused's failure to ensure that its employees were trained in and followed its lock out and tag out procedures.

The accused pleaded guilty.

Outcome Summary Convicted
Conviction Date 19 Oct 2006
Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Midland
Fine $25,500
Costs $1,200
Charge Number 5967/06