Tyre recycling company fined over amputation of worker’s fingers

A Welshpool tyre recycling company has been fined $80,000 over an incident in which a worker’s fingers were amputated by a tyre shredder.

Elan Energy Management Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace and, by that failure, causing serious harm to an employee and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court on Monday.

In September 2013, four workers at Elan Energy were engaged in using an item of plant – a mobile shredder mounted on a trailer – to shred tyres and reduce them into smaller pieces.

On the company’s instructions, one worker was operating the controls, two were loading the tyres onto the in-feed conveyor and one was located at the out-feed, standing on the trailer ensuring that the conveyor belt continued to clear and that blockages did not occur.

Company employees were observing that the out-feed would block frequently – up to ten times an hour – and the worker at the controls would then reverse the cutters of the shredder to free any wedged rubber.

Pulling on the wedged rubber was also sometimes required, in which case the cutter rotation would be stopped while the out-feed conveyor belt continued to run.

On the day of the incident, the 17-year-old unskilled worker who was located on the trailer at the out-feed of the shredder noticed that a long thin piece of rubber was stuck in the out-feed, and signalled the controller to reverse the shredder.

He then grabbed the stuck piece of tyre and fed it back into the reversing shredder with his right hand while holding the side of the out-feed with his left hand.  The piece of tyre was pulled onto the cutters quickly, pulling his hand with it.

All fingers on his right hand were amputated by the cutters.  His right thumb proved unsalvageable after initial surgery to reattach it.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today the case was yet another reminder to industry of the extreme importance of guarding the moving parts of machinery.

Further information on guarding of machinery can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.