Legal

Court fines bakery after employee breaks arm in dough mixer

Eloise Keating /

A Perth bakery has been ordered to pay almost $10,000 for failing to provide and maintain a safe workplace after one of its bakers broke his arm when using a dough mixer.

La Crust Bakery was fined $9000 and ordered to pay costs of $900 after pleading guilty to the charge in the Perth Magistrates Court last week.

The court heard one of La Crust’s bakers underwent surgery and spent two days in hospital in August 2012 after attempting to mix batches of dough using two commercial mixing machines in the food preparation area at the back of the bakery.

According to a statement from WorkSafe WA, the larger of the mixers was fitted with an interlocking guard that shut off its power supply when the guard was raised, but the smaller mixer which was also being used by the baker was unguarded and used a spiral mixing attachment.

When it was time to remove the dough from the smaller mixer, the employee turned off the machine but reached into the mixing bowl with his left hand before the spiral attachment had completely stopped.

The baker’s arm was pulled further into the machine by the attachment and when he pulled his arm upwards, he fractured his arm.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said in a statement La Crust Bakery installed a mixer guard on the machine after the accident, which cost the business just $600.

“If this had been done earlier, this incident would not have occurred and the employee involved would have been spared a great deal of suffering,” said McCulloch.

“Employers need to get the message that guarding is absolutely essential and that it is never safe to allow the moving parts of machinery to remain unguarded.”

“It is worth reminding workers that they too have a responsibility for their own safety and the safety of those around them, but it is up to the employer to provide the safe work environment via safely guarded machinery.”

Andrew Douglas, principal at M+K Lawyers, told SmartCompany if the same kind of incident happened in a business on the east coast of Australia, the penalty would have been much higher.

“In Victoria, New South Wales or Queensland, you would be looking at a tariff of upwards of $40,000,” says Douglas.

“Penalties [in Western Australia] are significantly lower and the court’s view of penalties is also lower.”

Douglas says the outcome of this case lays bare the disharmony of work safety legislation across Australian states, with employers in most other states likely to be slapped with a fine of anywhere between $40,000 and $100,000 for a similar entrapment injury, even if they were to plead guilty.

“It’s why there is a need for harmonisation,” says Douglas.

“It is such a serious incident, but also such a preventable one as the employer knew how to prevent it because it was doing so with another machine.”

“WA has always been extraordinarily pro-business in its safety legislation and intervention and management, and it has not come on board [with new legislation] as strongly as east coast regulators,” he says.

“The level of prosecution and the size of prosecution outcomes are both significantly lower.”

SmartCompany contacted La Crust Bakery but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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