SA winery, Kahlon Estate Wines Pty Ltd has been fined $68,000 for a workplace safety breach resulting in the amputation of an employee’s leg.
The winery entered an early guilty plea for failing to ensure the safety of employee, Indian student, Sukwant Virk, in early 2011 who was working as a cleaner at the estate.
Virk who was a temporary Australian resident at the time, had his leg trapped in an unguarded metal auger, resulting serious injuries and later leading to the amputation of his leg, The Advertiser reports.
Industrial magistrate Stephen Lieschke said that the winery demonstrated negligence as they had never carried out a risk assessment of the auger.
‘There is an additional factor in this case of the victim being a vulnerable young foreign student from a nation without similar occupational safety focus,” he said.
‘As such it is not surprising that despite the warning Mr Virk had stepped up onto the edge of the hopper in order to check the effectiveness of his work and to no doubt demonstrate what an efficient employee he was.”
Lieschke also added that the incident has dramatically impacted on Virk’s future employment prospects in India as the country has a tendency to demonstrate a “lack of acceptance and facilities for amputees.”
Lieschke said that the risks associated with the unguarded auger were obvious, and could have resulted in death.
“The maximum risk included a fatal injury,” said Lieschke.
“That was a real possibility in this case due to blood loss...There was also a possibility of both legs being trapped and crushed.”
Lieschke issued the winery an initial fine of $85,000 but reduced it to $68,000 on account of the company’s early guilty plea and co-operation with the investigation. Lieschke added that under normal circumstances, a fine for such a serious breach would be far greater, but adjusted it on account of the winery’s poor financial situation.
“The normal expected level of fine for such a serious offence will be a far greater penalty than would usually be expected for a business of this nature and size,
“I have taken this factor into account as a minor mitigating circumstance.”
In addition to the fine, the winery has been ordered to undergo immediate workplace training and to publish a warning relating to the dangers of unguarded augers in the Australian Wine Industry Journal.