BRICK manufacturer Selkirk says it will do everything in its power to avoid future workplace accidents after being fined $90,000 over an incident in which an employee’s face was crushed by a hydraulic ram.
Speaking after the decision in Ballarat Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Selkirk Group of Companies chief executive officer Simon Meadows said the company was “completely committed” to ensuring the health and safety of all employees.
It came after the Ballarat company pleaded guilty to one charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
The court was told the worker had to be airlifted to a Melbourne hospital on September 11 last year after the ram came down on his shoulders, forcing his face into fallen bricks, which he was trying to retrieve.
The victim, Stephen Bidgood, required surgery after suffering a broken right shoulder blade, broken jaw, and numerous other fractures including one to his face and right elbow.
The court heard the company, which has operated in Ballarat since 1883, was convicted and fined $55,000 in 2009 after a similar incident in 2007 that left a worker with serious injuries.
On that occasion the court found there was a failure to provide and maintain a safe operating plant.
WorkSafe prosecutor Jordana Millman told the court the most recent victim was left with feelings of claustrophobia after the incident.
She said the man had been working alone in the packaging area of the plant when he stopped the “strapping machine” in order to clear fallen bricks that had fallen beneath the hydraulic ram.
While positioned in a small gap another worker turned the machine back on, not realising he was in there.
The court heard Selkirk was aware of the danger in the packaging area and had a “tag out system” in place. This meant that each worker had a tag they were instructed to hang off a machine’s stop control as a signal to other workers not to turn the machine back on.
Mr Bidgood had not hung his tag from the strapping station stop control.
Selkirk’s defence lawyer Robert Taylor said the company focused heavily on work safety and in the 2012-13 financial year had spent almost $600,000 on work safe practices.
“This was not a case where there was no control,” Mr Taylor said.
“There was control, but it was objective.”
In convicting the company and fining them $90,000, magistrate Kay Robertson said had it not been for an early guilty plea, she would have fined the company in excess of $120,000.