Northern Sands quarry. Picture: Stewart McLean
Northern Sands quarry. Picture: Stewart McLean

Company cops fine after young apprentice's leg amputated

A CAIRNS business has been fined $125,000 after an apprentice suffered a severe leg injury, which required amputation last year.

On May 22, 2017 a fourth-year apprentice diesel fitter employed by sand and gravel business Northern Sands was working on an electrical fault in the engine of a backhoe under supervision of an experienced fitter/mechanic.

At the time of the incident, the experienced mechanic was under the backhoe while the apprentice was in the cabin.

Without informing his supervisor, the apprentice stepped out of the vehicle and stood behind the cabin and attempted to jump start the engine by shorting the motor solenoid with a screwdriver.

During this, the apprentice was instructed to turn the ignition switch which he did by "leaning in through the frame where the rear window is usually positioned".

When the engine started, the hydraulic arm of the hoe turned to the left which pinned the apprentice's leg between the boom and the body of the vehicle.

 

The Northern Sands quarry site. Picture: Stewart McLean
The Northern Sands quarry site. Picture: Stewart McLean

 

The young man suffered severe leg injuries which required amputation of the left leg below the knee. He continues to experience ongoing medical complications and psychological injury.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland conducted an investigation and found the backhoe was in "poor mechanical condition", the rear cabin window missing, and the roll over protection was "badly rusted".

Northern Sands was sentenced at the Cairns Magistrates Court under Section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to ensure the health and safety of a worker, exposing an individual to a risk of death or serious injury.

 

Tom Hedley (right) is the owner of Northern Sands, which pleaded guilty in the Cairns Magistrates Court.
Tom Hedley (right) is the owner of Northern Sands, which pleaded guilty in the Cairns Magistrates Court.

 

Magistrate Kevin Priestley rejected a defence submission that the injuries wouldn't have been sustained if the young worker hadn't been standing where he was.

Magistrate Priestley said the backhoe was in "such poor condition" it shouldn't have been in service at all.

At the sentence hearing, the magistrate took into account it was the defendant's first offence.

He also noted the defendant had cooperated with the investigation, entered any early guilty plea, expressed remorse, and was generally a good corporate citizen.

Northern Sands was fined $125,000 and ordered to pay professional and court costs of almost $1600.

No conviction was recorded.



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