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Recent health and safety prosecution highlights the importance of having safety processes

By Amy Towers

Risk Collective

A staffing firm has been fined for safety failings after an on-hire worker suffered serious injuries to his left hand while working at a host workplace.

On 4 December 2018 the on-hire worker was operating an unguarded vegetable dicer when his hand was sucked up by the dicer and became caught in the back of the chute. It took 2 hours for the worker’s hand to be freed from the dicer.

On 7 April 2021 the staffing firm was fined, without conviction, a total of $20,000 and ordered to pay $4,391.50 in costs after pleading guilty to an offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

It was noted that there was a risk to health and safety at the workplace in that persons operating the dicer were at risk of serious injury as bodily access to the knives of the dicer via the chute was possible during operation of the dicer.

It was reasonably practicable for the staffing firm to eliminate or reduce the risk to its employees by providing and maintaining a safe system of work which included:

  • attending the workplace at regular intervals to identify risks to health and safety to its employees at the workplace

  • recording what actions were necessary to reduce or eliminate those risks

  • consulting with the host to confirm that actions were taken to eliminate or reduce identified risks prior to placing its employees at the workplace

  • monitoring the nature of the work performed by its employees to ensure that they were not assigned duties or tasks that they were not equipped to perform safely, and

  • consulting with employees in relation to the duties they were required to undertake at the workplace and the risks they perceived in relation to their duties.

The staffing firm failed to undertake each of these measures.

The Host organisation, was also fined, with conviction, $90,000 and ordered to pay $2,658.50 in costs after pleading guilty to two charges. The host failed to undertake the following measures to ensure the workplace was safe and without risk to health:

  • Information about the hazards associated with the dicer, specifically the risk of injury from contact with the crosscut knives.

  • Documentation of, including instruction on, a safe operating procedure ('SOP') for the dicer and specific training in the SOP.

  • Information and training to ensure that any instructions provided in relation to the safe use of the dicer were clearly understood by employees, including those who spoke English as a second language.

The need for staffing firms to ensure the health and safety of on-hire workers prior to and during the workers' placement with a host workplace is well known and the consequences of not implementing safety processes and practices are as above.

Upcoming WHS Training

If you want to develop essential insight on health obligations in an on-hire arrangement, and the safety processes and practices required to fulfil this duty, register to attend one of RCSA's WHS workshops.

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