On 19 May 2023, a sawmill operator was sentenced in the Maryborough Magistrates Court for breaching s 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for having failed to comply with its primary health and safety duty to its workers.

Specifically, the sawmill owned a multi-saw which required cleaning at least three times a day. The cleaning process required two workers – one worker would remove nuts and spacers using a spanner, before holding up both hands and giving a verbal ‘all clear’; the second worker, the machine operator, would then press a button to raise the machine, allowing it to be cleaned. There were no written procedures in place for the cleaning of the multi-saw. Workers were trained in the process, but had different understandings of it.

On 27 July 2021, a worker, in conjunction with a second worker, was preparing the multi-saw for cleaning. While removing the nuts, his spanner became stuck. The second worker then elevated the machine before he was ready, crushing his left index finger between the nut and the machine. When he tried to pull his finger out of the machine, it became amputated. His finger was unable to be reattached, necessitating him undergoing surgery to amputate his finger to the middle knuckle. Ultimately his entire finger required amputation.

The Work Health and Safety prosecutor submitted that the sawmill operator should have eliminated or minimised the risk by implementing an engineering control on the multi-saw to ensure that it was unable to be operated unless both workers were ready, and/or developed and implemented a specific procedure for the cleaning task, ensuring workers were trained in the procedure.

Post-incident, the sawmill operator implemented engineering controls requiring both hands to press buttons before the multi-saw could be raised or lowered at a cost of $860.

In sentencing, the Magistrate took into account the sawmill operator’s early plea of guilty, lack of prior convictions, significant level of co-operation, as well as the need for denunciation and specific and general deterrence, amongst other factors. The Magistrate also had regard to the injured worker’s Victim Impact Statement detailing his pain and suffering, and ongoing physical and psychological issues. The sawmill was fined $50,000. No conviction was recorded.

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

Court Report

Date of offence
Finger amputation
Maryborough Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Milburn
Decision date
Maximum fine available
Professional and legal costs
Court costs
In default period
Time to pay
3 months
Conviction recorded