The following is an abridgement of an article originally published on the WorkSafe Victoria website.
An industrial component manufacturer and its director have been convicted and fined a total of $2.24 million and the director placed on a five year Community Corrections Order after an apprentice was seriously injured in Victoria.
The company and its sole director pleaded guilty to breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act for recklessly engaging in conduct that placed a person in danger of serious injury and failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work.
The incident occurred in October 2021, when the sole director directed the 20-year-old apprentice to use a plastic sleeve to steady lengths of steel pipe that he was threading on a lathe at the company’s workshop.
The apprentice was holding the plastic sleeve on the end of a pipe that protruded nearly 1.5 metres from the rear spindle of the lathe and was struck when the pipe bent and whipped. He was placed in an induced coma, airlifted to hospital and underwent surgery for serious head injuries.
A WorkSafe investigation found the director should have been aware of the risk and that it was reasonably practicable to ensure that covers were fixed to the lathe to prevent pipes that protruded from being threaded, or that a fixed steady was used to support such pipes and an exclusion zone used to restrict access to the danger area near the pipe.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said overhanging work pieces were a well-known safety risk when using lathes.
“It is incredibly frustrating that this employer had several control measures to eliminate or reduce the risk available but simply chose not to use them.”
“The significant penalties for this company and director reflect the life-altering impact this devastating incident has had on a vulnerable apprentice who was at the very start of his career.”
To manage risks when using metal turning lathes, duty holders should:
For more information on the safe use of metal turning lathes click here. Employers should always formalise risk hazard management with a proper work health and safety records management system. Many workplaces can benefit from dedicated software solutions to reduce human error and systematise procedures.
Record $2.1 million fine over apprentice's serious head injury by WorkSafe Victoria, 10th November, 2023.