Goulburn Valley Water fined after worker loses finger

One of Victoria’s major water corporations has been fined after an employee partially lost a finger following a workplace accident.

A Victorian water company has been fined after an employee was injured and hospitalised following a workplace accident in 2021.

Goulburn Valley Water appeared in the Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, May 3 where they were fined $50,000 and ordered to pay $3,906 in costs, after last month pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain a safe plant.

The court heard a worker was undertaking regular cleaning of a machine used to separate solid materials from waste water at a Mooroopna North sewage treatment facility in October 2021, when the steel pipe he was using became suddenly entangled and twisted around the rotating screw.

This jammed the worker’s right hand into the moving metal fingers of a step-screen located above the screw press, causing a partial amputation of his index finger while the top layers of skin and tissue were torn away from the underlying muscle of the middle finger (degloving).

The court also heard WorkSafe’s investigation found that when being cleaned, the machine was regularly placed in manual mode so it could continue to run when guarding on the danger area was removed.

WorkSafe Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the accident could have been avoided by GVW.

“Just because a particular process has been used in the past without incident does not necessarily mean that it is without risks to the health and safety of workers,” Dr Beer said.

“There was simply no excuse for exposing this worker to serious injury, especially given this employer had already acted to reduce the same risk on similar machines at other treatment facilities.”

Goulburn Valley Water managing director Steve Capewell said GVW was putting safety “first in everything we do”, in a statement on Wednesday.

“We accept the outcome from today’s hearing and take full responsibility for the accident,” Dr Capewell said. “We continue to invest heavily in safety guards and infrastructure upgrades at our site, safety leadership training for our staff, and improvement on our safety process reviews and management.”

Source: Herald Sun

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