An employer has been fined for failing to maintain a safe workplace and exposing employees to a risk of serious injury after an employee attempted to fix a jam in a machine. The employee climbed on top of the frame of the machine (over a bath of extremely hot liquid metal) where he slipped and suffered serious burns.

The jam could have been fixed by following much safer processes, however, the employer had not provided an operation manual for the machine.

Following the incident the employer discovered that the same employee had engaged in the same type of action one week earlier. The employer said that had they known about the earlier instance, formal disciplinary proceedings would have taken place.

The Judge held that a $600,000 fine was the starting point to represent the medium/high level of culpability of the employer. However, the fine was reduced to $371,250 plus $30,000 reparation to reflect the remorse of the employer and the early guilty plea.

While the Court took into account the employer’s actions following the incident by reducing the fine, the imposition of penalties of over $400,000 is likely to have a significant impact on this employer.

Alan Knowsley
Health & Safety Lawyer