Plastics manufacturer receives $545K fine | Learnings for workplaces

The recent award of a $545,000 fine against a plastics manufacturer for serious safety failing highlights the importance of acting on legal work safety notices issued by work safety regulators and ensuring systems are in place for managing work place risks. In this article we examine issues of workplace safety compliance that led to this fine.

A & J Australia Pty Ltd faced court in Victoria for multiple work safety violations after several workplace accidents, including serious burns, a head injury from falling machinery, and a finger cut on machinery. The company admitted to 16 charges under work safety regulations and was fined for not providing a safe work environment, not storing chemicals safely, and not properly training its employees. These fines came following an  incidents from a fire caused by hot works near flammable liquids, which was not labeled, leading to injuries. (See original article – Worksafe Victoria – External Link)

WorkSafe Victoria found the company could have prevented these incidents with risk assessments, safer work procedures, proper labelling, and training on fire safety. Additionally, the company didn’t protect other people on-site and failed to inform WorkSafe Victoria about incidents or comply with safety notices, resulting in further fines. It  emphasised the importance of maintaining safe machinery, training workers, and following safety procedures to prevent such accidents.

The key learnings from the incidents and subsequent court rulings against A & J Australia Pty Ltd highlight a range of important aspects of work safety compliance,  legal and ethical responsibilities of employers under the relevant work safety legislation. These learnings are important lessons for employers facing similar circumstances.

Firstly it’s fundamental to ensure compliance (or at least communicate effectively) with notices issued by the work safety regulator.  The additional fines for failing to comply with improvement and prohibition notices, as well as for failing to notify WorkSafe Victoria of an incident and ensuring the incident site wasn’t disturbed, underscore the importance of adhering to all legal and regulatory requirements, including reporting and response obligations following workplace incidents.

Secondly, the incident underscores the importance of correct labelling and storage of hazardous substances in the workplace. In this the use of unlabelled methylated spirits resulted in severe burns. Effective labelling prevents confusion and mitigates the risks associated with the use of inappropriate materials in emergency situations.

Thirdly it’s critical to have Safe Systems of Work especially for tasks which have critical risks attached.  The fine imposed for failing to provide a safe system of work, particularly in relation to the fire incident, emphasises the necessity of having established protocols and procedures that prioritise safety, especially when dealing with potentially hazardous operations like the use of open flames near flammable materials.

Fourthly, Risk Assessments and Preventative Measures are fundamental to control of workplace risks. The incidents point to the importance of conducting thorough risk assessments and implementing preventive measures, such as the installation of fixed guarding on machinery to prevent access to hazardous parts and ensuring regular maintenance and inspection of plant and equipment to keep it in safe working condition.

Additionally the importance of provision of information, instruction, and training cannot be understated. The penalties for failing to equip employees with the necessary information, instruction, and training highlight the employer’s responsibility to ensure all workers are adequately informed and trained on safe work practices, emergency procedures, and the handling of hazardous materials.

Finally it’s critical to ensure obligations toward Non-Employees is upheld.  The fine for exposing persons other than employees to health and safety risks stresses the employer’s duty to ensure the safety of all individuals on site, not just their direct employees, by maintaining a safe working environment and conducting operations in a manner that minimises risk to others.

This incident and regulatory action underscores the  importance of adherence to workplace safety regulations and the need for prompt action on notices issued by work safety regulators. The penalties awarded by the court resulted from multiple workplace accidents, including burns from a fire caused by unsafe handling of flammable liquids, a head injury due to falling machinery, and a finger laceration from equipment use. The company’s failure to provide a safe work environment, ensure the safe storage of chemicals, and offer proper training to its employees led to these fines. This case highlights the critical need for thorough risk assessments, the implementation of safer work procedures, effective communication and training on safety practices, and compliance with safety notices to prevent such incidents and protect all individuals within the workplace.

If you need assistance on improving work safety compliance at your workplace, Safetysure has a team of committed safety professionals that can offer objective independent advice on compliances issues and responding to work safety regulatory notices. Contact us on 1300 087 888.

By |2024-03-31T08:28:24+09:00March 31st, 2024|Legislation, News, Safety Advice|0 Comments

Leave A Comment