Business fined after worker’s thumb amputation in Swan Hill factory accident

A Victorian water tank manufacturer has been fined after pleading guilty to not providing a safe workplace environment after an incident where a worker lost their thumb.

Polymaster was fined $65,000 last Wednesday over the March 2021 incident in which a female worker’s thumb was severed.

A statement from Worksafe Victoria explained that the employee was using an industrial sander to grind a metal bar when her left hand was dragged into the machine and became trapped.

The worker could not reach the emergency stop button and had to call out to her supervisor to stop the sander.

It was not until she removed her hand from her leather glove that she realised her left thumb had been amputated at the second joint by the machine.

Later attempts to reattach the thumb were unsuccessful.

Company investigated by WorkSafe
An investigation by WorkSafe Victoria found the worker was not aware of a specific document created for operating the sander that stated no gloves or loose clothing should be worn while using the machine.

In the statement, WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety, Narelle Beer, said the company’s failure to ensure a safe system of work had needlessly caused the worker considerable harm.

“This incident and the life-changing injuries suffered have had a significant traumatic impact on this worker,” Dr Beer said.

“The risks of working with machinery are well known, so there is no excuse for failing to have a safe system of work in place and most importantly, ensure that workers are adhering to it.”

Polymaster was ordered to pay $16,000 towards WorkSafe’s legal costs.

No conviction was recorded over the incident.

‘Strong safety culture’: Polymaster
Polymaster is a family owned company which has operated in the Swan Hill region for over 30 years, employing administrative staff, sales people, engineers and production staff.

In a statement, the manufacturer said it had “an incredibly strong safety culture”, but had pleaded guilty over the amputation accident as it could have done more to enforce the correct procedure for using the sander.

Polymaster said it had been working with WorkSafe to improve standards, and had already made significant changes.

“Polymaster has reaffirmed its commitment to safety by appointing a new OHS officer and head of operations to improve overall safety and implement increased processes to ensure safety requirements are being enforced,” a spokesperson said.

“External training providers and board advisers on safety have also been engaged.”

The incident is not the first time Polymaster has been accused of breaching Victorian workplace laws.

Last month, the company was charged after a man was killed and another seriously injured while unloading water tanks during two separate deliveries in regional Victoria.

The matter was mentioned in Shepparton Magistrates’ Court in late September and a committal hearing will take place in December.

Source: ABC News

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