On 22 December 2023, Magistrate Shane Elliott delivered a decision to impose a fine of $70,000 plus professional and court costs of $1599.70 on a defendant after it pleaded guilty to one category 2 offence against section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The defendant operates a large meatworks in the Gatton area, employing approximately 700 people. Various items of plant are operated including bandsaws for cutting meat.

20 year old Dylan Kassulke commenced employment with the defendant in March 2018.  ON 10 April, approximately 3 weeks later he commenced training in bandsaw operation.

That day he watched Joel Koch a 20 year old meatworker, operate the bandsaw. Later that day he was supervised by Koch. While Koch had operated machinery in the past, he was yet to be signed off as competent on the loin bandsaw. While on the floor of the factory both Kassulke and Koch wore green hairnets signifying that they were both in training. Koch was subsequently signed off as competent on 18 April 2018.

On 16 April 2018, approximately half an hour before Kassulke’s shift finished, his left hand made contact with the blade. His index finger was severed at the first phalanx and his middle finger was nearly amputated. The middle finger was repaired with surgical intervention.

The bandsaw that Kassulke operated had a raising pedal guard. As the operator places their feet on the pedal a guard goes up and when the operator takes their foot off the pedal the guard goes back down. The foot pedal had been disabled by a bolt being placed through it. This was no doubt done so that the worker could cut meat at a faster rate. The consequence of that act was that the bandsaw did not have a safety guard.

The raising pedal guard was inoperative for at least a month. Further, and concerningly, workers were operating the bandsaw the following day while the foot pedal was still disabled. The defendant’s health and safety officer certified on 26 April 2018 that the guard had been repaired on the bandsaw.

Mr Kassulke suffered from physical and psychological harm as a result of the injuries he suffered.

The defendant failed to adequately ensure the plant was regularly inspected and that work processes were regularly inspected so that they could identify any unsafe work practices. The machine in question had been operating without the guarding for approximately one month. Had the company ensured that the plant been regularly inspected they would have identified the failings with the plant in question.

The guarding would not eliminate the risk of injury but would greatly reduce the hazard posed by the blade.

The victim was given inadequate supervision. He was supervised by another trainee who was yet to be signed off as competent with this bandsaw.

The defendant did not follow their own process for training and supervision in this matter.

There was a likelihood of risk of injury to a young employee who had not been adequately trained and supervised operating a bandsaw that had the guarding removed.

The defendant has now installed new machines that have blade stop technology installed. The blade stop technology use camera and hand sensors to prevent the blade operating when hands of the operator are in a dangerous position.

The Magistrate took into account:

  • the Defendant entered a plea of guilty.
  • The defendant has no previous convictions;
  • The defendant is otherwise of good character;
  • The defendant has implemented the blade stop technology on their bandsaws;
  • The injury to the victim and the emotional harm that the defendant has caused to the victim;
  • The seriousness of the offence;
  • The maximum penalty for the offence; 
  • Comparable decisions –  Reynolds v Tailored Adventures Pty Ltd [2019] QDC 150 and  Guilfoyle v Wild Breads Pty Ltd [2021] QDC 58; and
  • Section 9 (1) of the Penalties and Sentences Act factors. The principles of general deterrence, denunciation and punishment were considered to be important in determining the appropriate penalty for offences under the Work Health and Safety Act.

No conviction was record against the defendant.

The defendant was also ordered to pay legal costs and court fees of $1599.70.

OWHSP contact: enquiries@owhsp.qld.gov.au

Court Report

General
Industry
Agriculture, forestry and fishing
Date of offence
Injury
Partial amputation of index finger
Court
Gatton Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate S Elliott
Decision date
Company
Legislation

Sections 21(2) and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Plea
Guilty
Penalty
$70,000
Maximum fine available
$1,500,000
Professional and legal costs
$1,500
Court costs
$99.70
In default period
N/A
Time to pay
Referred to SPER
Conviction recorded
No