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Wake-up call for employers

14-12-2010
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in 

A husband and wife manufacturing partnership have faced court following the death of an 18 year-old worker at a Victorian cardboard packaging factory in February last year.

The worker was dragged into an exposed roller on a machine that printed and stacked cardboard at a Thomastown factory.

Magistrate Sarah Dawes described the incident as: “the sudden, unexpected and agonising loss of a son and brother.”

Gary Reid trading as Advanced Cartons was convicted under two sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and fined $60,000. Cheryl Reid trading as Advanced Cartons faced one charge under the Act and was not convicted.

Mr and Mrs Reid were placed on good behaviour and required to complete a managers’ safety training course.

The court heard the conveyor arm of the printing and stacking machine had been raised at a 90 degree angle, so workers could complete a specialist job. This action exposed the machine’s unguarded feed rollers.

The man was dragged into the rotating feed rollers by his clothing, and died from his injuries the following day.

“This was a young man at the start of his life, whose death could easily have been prevented if his workplace had stopped to consider his safety,” WorkSafe’s Executive Director for Health and Safety Ian Forsyth said.

“Following his death, guards and an interlocking system were installed on the machine at a cost of around $6000.

“Tragically, this is the price that could have saved this young man’s life,” he said.

The court heard that Mr and Mrs Reid failed to conduct a risk assessment on the machine, imported from China, which would have identified the risks to workers. In addition, there was inadequate information, training and supervision for workers using the machine.

Mr Forsyth said all Victorian employers needed to take a careful look at how they train and supervise young workers.

“Young workers may lack the experience, knowledge or skills to understand the risks involved in the work they are doing.

“They are more likely to follow instructions without questioning them. Sometimes they struggle to speak up about safety even if they see that something at work isn’t safe.

“This is a wake-up call for employers, managers and supervisors to recognise their added responsibilities when employing young people, and make sure their risk assessment, training, and supervision practices reflect this,” he said.

Mr Forsyth said young workers had the highest rate of injury in the state when compared to other age groups.

Last year more than 2500 young Victorian workers were injured badly enough on the job to make a worker’s compensation claim.

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