Rockhampton Court House.
Rockhampton Court House. Allan Reinikka ROK080917acourtho

Hefty fine imposed after labourer's hand amputated

LACK of supervision and training has been blamed for a gruesome workplace incident which resulted in an inexperienced labourer losing his right hand.

On Monday, Rockhampton Magistrates Court heard the incident happened while the young and inexperienced worker was employed as a pipeline labourer for McConnell Dowell Constructors near Biloela.

On July 19, 2013, he was working with the plant operator when he noticed a piece of root lodged in the trenching machine.

He reached in with his right hand between the roller and conveyor to push the root out, caught his shirt sleeve between the roller and the plant conveyor, which dragged his hand into the machine.

His hand was amputated at the wrist joint.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland told the court the incident was a foreseeable and identified hazard and the control measures detailed in the safe work method statement were inadequate and administrative only.

The court heard supervision and training of the worker was lacking and not what was detailed in the New Employee Development Program.

He had not been provided with a mentor and was unsupervised at the time of the incident.

McConnell Dowell highlighted the extensive steps taken to improve safe work systems generally and make its plant safe post-incident, but said the machine was not designed with or ever fitted with guarding.

They said to attach guarding went against the manufacturer's recommendations and would have obstructed the labourer's view of the inner workings of the machine.

The court heard the trenching machine was no longer used after the incident and that considerable support was provided to the injured labourer, including employing him in alternate work using his engineering qualifications.

Magistrate Jeff Clarke imposed an $80,000 fine and $2,900 court costs with no conviction recorded, agreeing that young workers are entitled to a higher level of supervision.

He acknowledged the extensive post-incident support provided to the worker by McConnell Dowell, the lack of any previous WHS convictions, and the company's remorse and acceptance of its wrongdoing.