On 25 January 2010, Jalor Tools P/L was convicted of two breaches of the 1985 version of Victoria’s OHS Act following the death of Ekaterini Peripetsakis in the week before Christmas in 2006. Ekaterini was hit in the chest by a piece of the router tool that broke off at very high speed striking killing her. She was working in her family’s cabinet making business.
Jalor Tools was prosecuted by WorkSafe Victoria because there was no information provided about the maximum permissible operating speed of the router – between 6,000 and 8,000 rpm. The router was operating at the time at 15,000 rpm. The relevant Australian Standard, AS1473.2 – 2001 specifies
“rotating tools, except boring tools, shall be marked with the maximum permissible speed”.
The judge took a number of issues into consideration when determining an appropriate sentence for Jalor Tools including the guilty plea, the lack of other convictions, the small business’ good reputation, the number of employees and the fact that a substantial fine would place considerable financial pressure on a company trying to cope with the economic effects of the global economic situation. Still, from the reaction of one of the defendants in Court, the $A80,000 financial penalty will hurt. The maximum penalty available on at least one count was $A250,000.
One indication of financial impact on the company was that the defendant’s lawyer asked for an extension on the three-month payment period to six month, which was granted. As one person said outside the court, such a fine equates to the annual salary of two employees.
The judge stressed that he needed to indicate a general deterrence when sentencing and that a “just punishment” was required, particularly when there had been such a “real and grave risk” of injury from the equipment.
Safety professionals and some business owners often complain that the manufacturers of equipment are not often prosecuted even though the use of equipment is often a major part of an incident. This prosecution indicates that such actions are available and the OHS regulators do pursue them.
I was able to interview the acting executive director of WorkSafe Victoria, Stan Krpan, who was in court for the hearing. The exclusive audio of the interview is available below.
The WorkSafe prosecution summary for the case provides a little more pbackground:
“Jalor Tools Pty Ltd operates a tool design and manufacture business in Bentleigh East. A woodworking company that manufactures solid timber and Medium Density Fibre (MDF) doors using a variety of woodworking machinery approached the defendant towards the end of 2002 to manufacture a router tool that was required to cut a specific angle into a door. The defendant was supplied with a description of the finish that was required and the defendant subsequently designed, manufactured and supplied a tool that would achieve this.
On 5 December 2002, the defendant supplied a Large Panel Raising Router to the woodworking company. The tool showed no signs of being balanced and no other information was supplied with the tool. The tool was not marked with its maximum rotational speed.”
More case information will be provided as it becomes available.