Employer Not Liable for Unapproved Manual Task

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Employer Not Liable for Unapproved Manual Task

02/05/2014

A South Australian company recently defended a charge of failing to maintain a safe system of work. The court heard that a worker and his supervisor threw rocks at a rock crusher to clear a blockage. The machine had a rock-breaker, which could have cleared the blockage, but it was inoperative at the time of the incident.

The worker lost part of a finger and suffered other injuries when he caught his hand between the oscillating jaws of the crusher and a flying rock. The employer, successfully claimed that the workers were trained in the correct safe work procedure for clearing blockages, which involved use of the rockbreaker or in the event this was not operative to contact the supervisor and request a mobile excavator with rock breaking attachment to be used to clear the crusher.

The court concluded the injured worker and supervisor acted contrary to instructions and training, and the supervisor contrary to his responsibilities as a supervisor, in attempting to clear the crusher manually.

Throwing of rocks at the jammed crusher was not an approved method specified by the employer.

Key learnings from this case include:

  • Have clear safe work procedures (documented).
  • Ensure all workers are trained in the procedures.
  • Include ‘action required’ for when problems arise, e.g. equipment failure.

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