By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A Dandenong South tyre-recycling factory has been convicted and fined $80,000 after a worker’s arm was mangled in an unguarded tyre shredder.
The worker had fatefully tried to clear a jammed machine by hand at Tyre Recycling Australia on 13 August 2018, Dandenong Magistrates’ Court heard.
That night, he’d responded to an earlier jam by stopping the shredder and clearing 15 loads of tyre off the conveyor belt.
Soon afterwards, it blocked again. Without turning the system off, he reached out to brush tyre pieces away from the shredder.
It caught his glove, dragging his right arm into its jaws.
The worker was taken by ambulance to The Alfred hospital. He endured several operations to his forearm and hand as well as a skin graft from his leg.
The court heard that there were more surgeries expected. At best, he’ll regain 30 per cent movement of his arm.
In a victim impact statement, the worker said he had lost his confidence and spark for life. He’d been unable to return to work, pay his rent and his bills.
Formerly “fun loving”, he said he struggled to have friends due to how he looked and felt.
“It made me a completely different person and I hate it.”
A Work Safe inspector found that the machine had been running for six weeks without appropriate barriers and guarding. Training for young workers was also insufficient.
The authority told the court that “inexpensive measures” were “readily available” to reduce the risk.
Three days after the injury, TRA installed guardings, the court heard.
TRA was said to be at risk of losing accreditation if convicted, its lawyer told Dandenong Magistrates’ Court on 3 October.
It was one of four such facilities in Victoria and the only one in Melbourne’s South East, the court heard.
Renex Group, which uses shredded tyre to provide power for its thermal recycling process (pyrolysis), had since taken over TRA.
It had since taken steps to ensure the TRA premises was compliant, the lawyer said.
The supervising manager had told workers that he was the only person allowed in the unfenced area, according to his statement to Work Safe.
This was an “administrative” workplace safety control. This was a “legitimate defence”, the lawyer said – though conceding it was “not a great defence”.
Magistrate Sharon McRae said it was an “odd thing” to put to the court – that it was OK for the factory manager to take on all the risk himself.
It was “very, very far short” of appropriate safety measures, Ms McRae said.
“And the supervisor knew that by telling people not to go in that area.
“There was always going to be a serious injury if something goes wrong.”
She noted the manager could have prevented the injury by earlier pulling up the worker from removing the 15 loads of tyre material off the machine.
“That to me is a problem.”
She acknowledged her sentence indication wouldn’t reflect the worker’s “severe and nasty” injury.
Rather, the court punished according to the risk of injury due to TRA’s failure to provide a safe workplace.
“The court does understand this has had a traumatic and detrimental effect on the victim’s life.”
TRA, which accepted the sentence indication, pleaded guilty. On top of the fine, it was ordered to pay $4217 costs to Work Safe.