It is always an option to do nothing. The status quo can be very attractive but if one chooses to not control a workplace hazard that one is aware of then the penalty must be accepted and the responsibility accepted.
WorkSafe Victoria has provided details (not yet online) of a case where a director of a food manufacturing company did not act on a workplace hazard and that hazard resulted in
“…the worker’s middle three fingers …removed to the knuckle; and he suffered damaged nerves, constant pain, and restricted movement of his thumb.”
The sole director of the company, Dino Fabbris, was fined $A25,000 for
“…his failure to arrange for the shredder to be guarded – despite working on the factory floor on a daily basis and taking managerial responsibility for the company’s two factories.”
According to WorkSafe’s media release,
“the company, Fabbris Smallgoods, was separately convicted and fined $50,000… for failing to provide safe plant; and failing to provide information, instruction and training to employees.” (link added)
“The incident occurred when a worker was required to work on the factory’s smaller shredder – which was not guarded, after previously being trained and working only on the larger shredder – which had an interlocking guard.
When the shredder became blocked with meat, the worker attempted to unblock it by pushing the meat with his hand, without switching the machine off. His hand was caught in the blades of the shredder and dragged into the shredding machinery.”
Many would consider the above description of the event to illustrate a worker undertaking an “unsafe act”. To many this would be enough to say that the worker was at fault because he put his hand into an active machine. The work task was the same, only the machine was different.
The risk was increased as a result of inadequate training and information as shown by the company’s conviction above.
The company adequately guarded one shredder but not another. Inconsistency of safety management created an uncertainty in the workplace when, as WorkSafe said in its media statement
“Failing to spend $5,000 on a guard for a meat shredder has cost a worker the use of his hand, and a company and director a total of $75,000.”
As the court case was conducted in the Magistrates’ Court, additional detail of the incident is not publicly available which is a great shame because this incident could illustrate many issues that continue to be debated in the safety profession – supervisor responsibility, worker responsibility, systems of work, instruction, training, unsafe acts, cognition, workplace design, when is there enough supervision, and many other issues.
Regardless of the safety discussion the reality is that a worker was seriously injured when the injury could have been avoided. To WorkSafe’s knowledge, the injured worker is not currently working which, some would say, is the biggest tragedy of all.