The following is an abridgement of an article originally published on the AIHS website.
It was only the second day operating a capacitor discharge welder machine, when a worker at a manufacturing company in South Australia was seriously injured.
The machine welds components together using an electrical charge and injured the worker's hand to the extent that the middle finger of his right hand needed to be partially amputated.
The incident occurred in May 2021 and a subsequent SafeWork SA investigation ensued.
The company had recognised the risks posed by the machine as early as 2012 and had made several engineering safety alterations over time.
Despite these measures, a worker suffered a crush injury in 2019. He had managed to override a safety feature, whereby he inserted a piece of plastic to hold down one of the buttons, so that he only needed to use one hand to activate a weld.
On the day of the 2021 incident, the light guard setting was off, and there was no Safe Operating Procedure in place for pre-start checks for the machine. The company was charged under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 for failing to provide a safe system of work, otherwise known as SWMS.
Deputy President Katherine Eaton stated that the incident was a direct result of inadequate engineering and administrative safety measures, including suitable training and testing of the light guard.
She said a simple administrative measure would have alerted the operator that the light guard was not functioning.
“Nor was there any training … to check that the light guard was working before commencing any welds.”
“There was no supervision this early on his second day on the capacitor discharge welder, to follow up whether he was performing his tasks in the manner he was shown the previous day.”
Since the incident, the company has made further safety upgrades and employed a full-time health and safety manager. SafeWork SA’s acting executive director, Rob Templeton, highlighted the importance of administrative risk controls.
“It is not an aspirational goal, it is a legal requirement for persons conducting a business or undertaking to take all reasonable measures to ensure that work is conducted in a safe and healthy manner.”
Initially fined $100,000, the company’s fine was reduced to $60,000 after a 40% discount for an early guilty plea. The injured worker received income support and medical expenses under the Return to Work Act.
Company fined $60,000 over welding machinery crush injury by AIHS, 25th January, 2024.