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Prosecution Details

Offender Westcoast Wools Pty Ltd (ACN 074 110 419)


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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 FR5154/12 24 November 2009 & on or about 30 November 2009 15th August 2012 3A(2)(b)(i) $15,000.00 15th August 2012
2 FR5155/12 24 November 2009 & on or about 30 November 2009 15th August 2012 3A(1)(b)(ii)(I) $2,500.00 15th August 2012
Description of Breach(es)

Charge 1- Being an employer, did not, so far as was practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which its employees were not exposed to hazards and by that failure contravened sections 19(1) and 19A(3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Charge 2 - Being an employer of an employee who, at a workplace, incurred an injury which, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, was likely to prevent the employee from being able to work within 10 days of the date on which the injury occurred, failed to notify the Commissioner of the injury forthwith, and by that failure contravened sections 23I(3) and 23J(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The Accused operates a warehouse located at 143 Barrington Street, Bibra Lake, at which it blends wool for export.

In the Accused's business operations, a number of wool decotter machines are used to tease open wool fibres where necessary prior to blending.

Employees manually feed wool into the decotters along rollers. The wool is teased open in a series of comb bars and then ejected. Approximately 300 2-inch-long teeth protrude from each comb bar. The comb bars rotate at approximately 1,000 rpm.

If the wool is too thick, long, heavy or dagged, the comb bars can jam. This overloads the decotter's motor and temporarily cuts off power to the decotter. It is not uncommon for the decotter to jam in this way. If the decotter does jam, it must be manually unjammed by dragging the jammed wool back out of the comb bars.

On 24 November 2009 an employee of the Accused was using a decotter in the course of his work. Unlike the Accused's other decotters, this decotter was not equipped with either:

  • a fixed guard to prevent manual access to the comb bars; or
  • an interlock guard that would isolate power to the decotter if the guard was removed.

The decotter jammed as a result of the employee feeding too much wool into it. A director of the Accused noticed that the decotter had jammed and instructed the employee to unjam it.

The employee had been employed by the Accused for 3 days at this point. He had been given some instruction in the operation of the decotter and had assisted with unjamming the decotter on at least two prior occasions without incident.

The Accused had no documented safety procedures for unjamming the decotter.

With the director watching, the employee proceeded to unjam the comb bars using his hands, as he had done on previous occasions. Another employee of the Accused was also assisting to unjam the decotter.  The employee was aware that wool hooks and bars could be used to unjam the decotter but did not use them on this occasion.

The employee did not isolate the power to the decotter prior to attempting to unjam it.

While the employee's hands were among the comb bars, the director inadvertently leant on the power switch, reactivating the decotter.  The employee's left hand was caught in the comb bars.  He suffered multiple superficial lacerations to his left hand and forearm and was taken to hospital. The injury also resulted in a partial tear to his ulnar collateral ligament.

Since the incident, the Accused:

  • at a cost of $98.55, has prepared and documented a system to ensure that, before an employee attempts to access the comb bars of the decotter: the supply of power to the decotter is isolated and locked out; a danger tag is placed on the power source; and an out of service tag is placed on the decotter, has trained its employees to use this system, and has enforced the use of this system by its employees;
  • at a cost of approximately $500, has installed an interlock guard that prevents manual access to the comb bars and isolates power to the decotter if the guard is removed; and
  • at a cost of approximately $300, has replaced and covered the power switch such that it cannot be depressed and the machine reactivated inadvertently.

It was practicable for the Accused to have taken each of these measures prior to the incident.

Charge 2

The initial medical certificate for the employee, issued on the date of the incident, indicated that he would be totally unfit for work for 3 days (24-26 November 2009).

On or prior to 30 November 2009, the Accused was provided with a further medical certificate dated 25 November 2009 and indicating that the employee was totally unfit for work until 10 December 2009 (17 days after the incident).

Subsequently, further medical certificates were periodically provided to the Accused and indicated that the employee was totally unfit for work until 12 June 2010, after which he was fit to return to modified duties.

The Accused did not notify the WorkSafe Commissioner of the employee's injury until 16 April 2010, in response to an Improvement Notice issued by a WorkSafe Inspector.

Outcome Summary

The Accused entered a guilty plea to both charges and was convicted.

Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Fremantle
Costs $1343.80

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