Magistrate calls for formalised training after worker’s fingers get crushed

by L&D01 Sep 2016
The boot and clothing manufacturer RM Williams has been fined $90,000 plus court costs after an employee’s fingers were crushed and burnt while operating machinery.
The company pleaded guilty in South Australia’s Industrial Court to one count of failing to comply with health and safety laws.
The incident occurred on 29 June, 2015 at the company’s Adelaide plant.

Sharon Vargas was using a heated logo stamping machine for the first time without an interlocked guard, which then caused the accident.

Vargas was left with permanent injuries and third degree burns.
After an investigation by SafeWork SA, RM Williams was charged with failing to comply with a health and safety duty and exposing an employee to the risk of serious injury.
Management at RM Williams said in submissions that they didn’t know about the shortcut staff were implementing on the hot press machine which involved putting their hands inside.
The presiding Magistrate Michael Ardlie said “it is a matter for grave concern that the worker being a ‘new’ worker on the plant was being instructed in a practice which was positively dangerous and sought to defeat the machines safety measures”.
He said that training on the press should be more formalised and focused on safety. It should also not include the aforementioned shortcut.
The SafeWork SA Executive Director, Marie Boland added that this conviction highlights the importance of guarding moving parts on machinery which pose a serious risk to the health and safety of workers.
"Large industrial plants can pose serious risks of injury and this conviction reinforces the importance of managing those risks through the development of clear procedures and the provision of training and supervision," she said.

“People can ask for help from SafeWork SA to identify and manage work health and safety risks.
“Our experienced WHS advisors do not have any inspector powers so people can feel comfortable asking us for help.”
In an attempt to stop a similar accident happening again, the company has since introduced safety guards.
L&D Professional contacted RM Williams for comment.