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Prosecution Details

Defendant Bluescope Steel Limited
Trading Name Bluescope Lysaght
Section 21(1)(b) and (3)
Offence Date Wednesday, 1 December 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 wholly or in part 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 (3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The accused was engaged in the work of manufacturing steel components for both commercial and domestic use.

The components were manufactured by machinery operated by employees of the accused and in some instances employees of Skilled Group Limited. Skilled Group Limited provided the accused with workers under a labour hire agreement.

About 93 workers worked in the accused's factory at Forrestfield at the time of the incident.

On 1 December 2004 the workers carrying out work for the accused at its factory included worker A who was employed by the accused and worker B who was employed by Skilled Group Limited and who had worked for the accused for about 3 months.

Part of the accused's work was carried out using a 25 tonne John Heine 203 AG series 2 mechanical type power press known at the workplace of the accused as "No 3 Fly Press". The press was used to bend pieces of steel with a maximum thickness of 1mm. However, the opening between the upper die when it was uppermost and the lower die of the Press was large enough to insert into it a hand or finger(s). It was 200mm.

The accused had owned and operated the press for approximately 11.5 years.

The press was powered by an electric motor that powered a mechanical flywheel via a belt drive.

The press was located in the area of the accused's factory known as the press section. This area of the factory housed a number of other power presses and pieces of machinery.

The press operated as follows:
a. The operator put a piece of metal onto the lower die of the press so that it sat under the upper die which was in the upward position;
b. The operator pulled down the spring loaded metal mechanical guard with his right hand and held it down as far as possible;
c. Whilst continually holding down the guard to stop it springing back up away from the lower die, the operator reached over to the front left side of the press and pressed the start button and then released it;
d. While the operator continued to hold the guard down as far as possible the upper die descended down onto the metal sheet that rested on the lower die where it exerted 25 tonnes of pressure onto the metal and bent it into shape;
e. When the piece of metal had been pressed and the upper die had moved back up off the lower die, the operator released the guard with his right hand and reached his hand under the path of the upper die and removed the pressed piece of metal from the press; and
f. If the operator kept the start button depressed the upper die would then continue to cycle up and down even if the operator had let go of the guard and it had sprung partly back up away from the lower die.

On 1 December 2004 worker B was using the Press to press pieces of steel into square gutter brackets.

He placed the steel onto the lower die so that it was under the upper die. With his right hand he then pulled the guard down as far as possible and held it in place. He then used his left hand to push the start button. The upper die moved down onto the metal, pressed it into the required shape and moved back up to its up position. When this process was finished, he let go of the guard so that it sprang back up away from the pressed metal. With his right hand he then reached into the path of the upper die to remove the bent piece of metal. While his hand was in this position the upper die of the Press moved back down towards his hand and pressed down onto it.

The die crushed four of the fingers on his right hand. Those fingers were later amputated. His right and middle fingers were amputated below the 1st knuckle and his second finger and small finger were amputated above the first knuckle.

On 17 December 2004 an Inspector of WorkSafe issued improvement notice number 135322 to the accused.

On 27 January 2005 the accused notified WorkSafe that it had complied with the improvement notice.

The accused complied with the improvement notice by modifying the Press so that the upper die would not move down unless an automated guard had already moved down to within 18 mm of the press block, and if the guard was opened, the upper die would automatically stop moving. This was achieved by:
a. Extending the length of the existing guard so that when the guard was in the down position the gap between the piece of steel being bent and the bottom of the guard was too small to fit a finger or hand into;
b. Installing a pneumatic cylinder to lower and lift the guard automatically and remove the need for the operator to lower the guard; and
c. The installation of a metal interlocking bar which as soon as the guard began to move up, disengaged the clutch mechanism and stopped the ram and upper die from moving.

In addition:
a. Operators were given long metallic tongs to place the piece of metal onto the lower die of the No. 3 Fly Press (thereby eliminating the need for operators to place their hands between the upper and lower dies); and
b. Both hands were needed to press two start buttons for the No. 3 Fly Press to operate. If one hand was removed, the No. 3 Fly Press would automatically cease to operate.

The modifications to the Press were undertaken by the accused's employees.

Outcome Summary Pleaded Guilty
Conviction Date 26 Jul 2007
Court Midland Magistrates Court
Fine $5,000
Costs $2,641.70
Charge Number 2892/2007