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Prosecution Details

Offender United Bonded Fabrics Pty Ltd (ACN 000 430 124)
Trading Name t/as Tontine Fibres


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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 FR9897/11 27 July 2009 11th January 2012 3A(3)(b)(i) $40,000.00 11th January 2012
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer, failed so far as was practicable, to provide and maintain a working environment in which its employees were not exposed to hazards and by that failure caused serious harm to an employee; contrary to sections 19(1) and 19A(2) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The Accused was a manufacturer of insulation and pillows from raw fibres, which operated a factory at Unit A0 - A1, 174 Barrington Street in Bibra Lake.  The factory consisted of an area for production and another section consisting of an office and storage space. The production floor is made up of many items of plant for the insulation production (referred to as the ‘Bonded Line') and pillow production (referred to as the ‘Pillow Line').

The machines in the workplace were guarded and/or surrounded by cyclone fencing to prevent access whilst they were energised.

The Accused employed approximately 30 persons at the factory, including an employee as a process worker on the pillow line.

This employee's duties involved rolling out fibres from the machines and stuffing them into pillow linings before they were packaged and boxed.  One of her duties involved working with a garnett machine and involved cleaning of the machine when it broke down and when it was switched off at the end of each day.

To clean the fibres from the moving parts on the machines, employees used a tool with a metal shaft that spins and catches the fibres when the trigger is pulled known as ‘guns'.  However, there were only a small number of these in the workplace and they were shared around and often not accessible if cleaning needed to be completed quickly. There were also lengths of wooden dowel accessible for employees to use to collect the fibres from the machines without having to use their hands.

At approximately 11:50am on 27 July 2009, about 10 minutes before the end of her shift, the employee turned off the power to the garnett machine and entered through the main access gate in the cyclone fencing around the machine to commence cleaning the garnett machine, as was required at that time of day.

Although the main access gate to the garnett machine was interlocked and automatically shut the garnett machine down when the gate was opened, the moving parts of the machine continued to move for several minutes as it wound down. The gate did not prevent access by employees to the machine while the parts were still moving.

As the employee was cleaning around the moving parts of the garnett machine using her bare hands, the middle finger on her right hand was caught and crushed between a wheel and chain, resulting in a partial amputation of that finger.

At the time the employee could not see that the parts were still moving as they were covered with fibres.

The employee had not been instructed to check the machine before cleaning to ensure the parts were not moving, or provided with training about the hazards associated with such plant.

In the nine months preceding the employee's accident, there had been two previous accidents at the workplace whereby different employees suffered injury as a result of having a hand and a finger caught in rollers whilst using their hands to clean fibres away. The only action the Accused had taken after those accidents was to re-iterate to its employees to use the sticks to push fibres through and not their hands.

After the employee's accident, the Accused installed a time delay device onto the interlocked gate that the employee had stepped through to clean the garnett machine.  The device works by keeping the gate locked until a preset time has passed, allowing the dangerous moving parts of the garnett machine to come to a complete stop before the gate opens. The cost of the time delay device was $2,271.53.

A warning sign was also installed on the gate after the accident.

Outcome Summary

The Accused plead guilty to 4 charges (see other prosecution summary) and was convicted

Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Fremantle
Costs $1090.70 - shared costs with other charges

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