In July 2008, an employee operating a wood chipping machine at a
timber plantation in Mount Barker, Western Australia, lost his
index, middle and ring fingers and his little finger was severely
injured when his hand was struck by a rotating disk.
The incident occurred when the employee attempted to clear a
blockage from the machine. No protective guard was fitted to the
machine's overspout (designed to eject waste materials).
In February 2012, His Honour Magistrate Peter Malone found the
supplier of the machine guilty of failing to ensure that the design
and construction of the machine was safe, and by that failure, the
supplier had caused serious harm to the worker.
The supplier was fined $30,000.00 and $12,000.00 in costs, the
Magistrate commenting that the injuries suffered by the worker were
significant and had led to a permanent disability.
WorkSafe WA Director of Policy and Education, Ian Munns, said
the case sent a clear message about the importance of guards on
machinery and the fact that responsibility for workplace safety was
not limited to employers.
Fines and Costs
It is important for employers and suppliers to be aware that
while workers' compensation and common law liability may be
insured against, public policy prevents insurance being taken out
to cover fines.
However, it might be possible to insure against the legal costs
of defending an occupational health and safety prosecution provided
specific insurance was in place, covering that risk, separate to
that covering workers' compensation and common law
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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