By Margaret Tra
Source: Safe to Work
A Victorian timber company has received more than 100 safety
improvement notices in less than a decade has been convicted and
The Colac company was fined $70,000 for failing to comply with a safety
improvement notice, and having an unguarded machine which injured a worker.
Associated Kiln Driers (trading as AKD Softwoods) pleaded guilty to two
charges arising from separate incidents just a few months apart in 2009.
The charges related to the company not complying with a safety improvement
notice for more than five months after its due date and not having safe
systems of work.
A WorkSafe inspector issued three safety improvement notices as a result of
an incident in which a man fell three meters from a mezzanine floor in June
Two required the provision of safe systems of work for employees so they
could not fall more than two meters. The third required the company to
provide appropriate supervision so employees could work in a manner that
was safe and without risks to health.
The first two notices were complied with by 15 July, but the third was not
dealt with by the company until early 2010. More than five months after it
The second charge related to an incident in November 2009 when a worker was
hurt when a robotic arm suddenly reactivated when a worker removed a
He sustained serious injuries to his right arm and pelvis. Safety
improvements made after the incident cost $10,000.
Colac Magistrate Stephen Myall was told that since 2001, AKD had received
117 safety improvement or prohibition notices issued and was prosecuted
twice in 2007 for inadequate traffic management (convicted and fined
$10,000) and for inadequate guarding on a conveyer (convicted and fined
WorkSafe's general manager for operations, Lisa Sturzenegger, said the
timber products industry was a major focus for WorkSafe enforcement
activity in 2011-12.
"It is among eight industries that have a particularly high rate of
injuries and needs to do much more to ensure the safety of workers,
"We require businesses to be proactive about safety, invest some time and
effort and doing whatever is practicable to prevent people being hurt.
We'll provide help and support, but they have the legal responsibility to
ensure people aren't put at risk, hurt or killed.
"We should not have to issue as many safety improvement notices as this
company received, but it is not alone in terms of safety issues in this
industry. The risks are well-known; so are the solutions.
WorkSafe figures show that 783 workers compensation claims were reported
from the Colac-Otway Shire in the past five years.
"These are injuries where someone has been off work 10 days or more or had
significant treatment, rehabilitation of other costs,
"The community cost to the region is considerable, averaging nearly
$3-million a year over the past five years,
"On top of that are a range of business costs which include increased
workers compensation premium for the individual business and others in
affected industries and, in many cases, legal costs which ultimately flow
back to the wider community," she said.
This prosecution comes in the wake a new WorkSafe awareness campaign
reminding businesses of the need to address health and safety matters
before an inspector visits.
Sturzenegger said while the new
'Any Day Now' campaign reminded
employers that WorkSafe inspectors were out and about, basic safety
issues had to be dealt with at the business level.
"Prosecution is an expensive option, but is avoidable if safety obligations
are met," she said.
"Many people are doing the right thing, but we find we are not getting the
traction we know is possible if every business addressed basic safety
issues which can be fixed at little or no cost."
This incident follows
a Geelong business convicted for
failing to properly guard machines, resulting in worker injuries
including loss of two fingers and a crushed hand and head.