SKM Recycling – The Real Story

On 24 October 2014 a worker lost his hand in an aluminium baler at SKM. I was the OHS Manager. How could this happen? The supplier was an expert engineer, they installed and commissioned the machine and trained operators. It was used exactly as intended and had all guarding in place. No incidents or near misses were reported in 4 years, and 50,000 cycles of operation. An external plant expert confirmed the process as safe. My investigation identified a 3 cm gap which appeared for 1.5 seconds at the side of the baler during a compression cycle, allowing the workers hand to slip behind the retracting platen. The gap was only seen by torch and the location of blood on the platen. The supplier confirmed there was a design fault. SKM’s Barrister and I agreed that the Baiada High Court decision applied and SKM were entitled to rely on the expert supplier, and there was nothing further SKM could have done. Last week’s Supreme Court decision to allow SKM’s appeal confirms again that employers may rely upon experts they engage and the test of reasonable practicability is not to be based on hindsight. I worked for SKM from 2008 – 2015 and received unqualified support and I have waited 5 years to tell how it really was.