A NOWERGUP limestone company has admitted it had a hazardous workplace when an employee suffered horrific injuries after becoming entangled in a machine that tried to “make a block out of him” last year.
Limestone Building Blocks Company Pty Ltd faced Joondalup Magistrates Court on Friday, pleading guilty at its first hearing to failing “to provide and maintain a working environment at a mine where employees are not exposed to hazards”.
The incident happened on January 25, 2017 at the Hopkins Road plant.
A Department of Mines and Petroleum prosecutor told the court a young forklift driver was attempting to remove residue from a block making machine when he triggered a sensor that activated the building process.
“The machine thought he was aggregate and proceeded to attempt making a block out of him,” he said.
“The critical risk… is the machine being in automatic while someone is accessing the machine inside.”
The victim suffered multiple severe injuries including partial amputation of his right leg, a fractured pelvis and wounds to his liver and kidneys.
He was airlifted to hospital.
The prosecutor said the machine’s “capture key system” was another critical element to the case.
The machine required two keys to activate.
For safety reasons, only one key was ever meant to be left in it.
But on this occasion both keys had been left in the machine.
The company’s lawyer, who said the owners were “mortified by the event”, argued that while they was pleading guilty, some of the onus had to be placed on the employee too.
He claimed the young man had been “told never to go in the machine”.
“There’s a big board on the outside of the machine that says ‘this equipment starts automatically’,” he said.
“We say he entered without any authority… it wasn’t his job to enter the machine.”
He said the company had since spent more than $1 million improving safety standards.
They were on good terms with the employee.
“The company is very remorseful,” he said.
“They keep in contact with this employee… they will offer him a job again (when he has recovered).
“The company worked very closely and tirelessly with the Worksafe inspectors.”
Magistrate Deen Potter said he would need time to consider the parties’ submissions and would sentence the company on February 16.
The court heard the maximum penalty for an offence of this severity was $400,000.
The case bears a stark similarity to a 2006 incident near Bunbury where a 19-year-old man set off an automatic block making machine while attempting to clean it.
The machine also had a dual key system.
The victim’s leg was torn from his body at the hip.
The company, Giacci Bros, was fined $100,000.