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Visy workplace accident: Company receives heavy fine after Smithfield incident that caused worker's leg to be amputated

AUSTRALIA (From news reports) -- One of Australia's biggest packaging and recycling companies has been slapped with a whopping fine after a worker's ankle was crushed and that leg later amputated due to a horror workplace accident.

Visy Board Pty Limited (Visy) was fined $375,000 after the NSW District Court handed down its findings earlier this month.

Grandfather Zoran Stojanovski was working on a conveyor at the company's Smithfield worksite in Sydney's south-west in June 2020 when he unknowingly stepped into the path of a trolley car.

His left ankle was crushed after it became trapped between the trolley car and conveyor.

'At that time Mr Stojanovski was wearing hearing protection and could not hear the trolley car's audible alarm over the noise of the corrugator and other plant in the area,' the judgment states.

'Further, the audible alarm was not loud on the northern side of the trolley car.'

Mr Stojanovski underwent multiple surgeries to his left ankle and foot.

An infection meant his leg had to be amputated below the knee.

A risk assessment carried out at the Smithfield worksite six months prior to the accident had raised concerns regarding 'crush/pinch points between edge of trolley car and conveyors corners', according to SafeWork NSW.

The authority claimed that potential solutions were not implemented, despite Visy acknowledging the risk was 'unacceptable' and 'patently obvious'.

The court also heard in great detail the 'substantial' injury, emotional harm, loss and damage caused to Mr Stojanovski.

He suffered anxiety attacks, lost interest in all previous hobbies and activities, and often had uncontrollable anger which sometimes resulted in 'arguments with people for the smallest reasons'.

'If anyone would even picture for a second how hard it has been for me to live with only one leg, they might have a bit of understanding as to how I am feeling on a daily basis and the type of impact it might have on their own lives as it has on mine,' Mr Stojanovski told the court.

The court also heard that about Mr Stojanovski suffered great distress about being unable to play with his young grandson and chase him around the house.

It also took six months for the boy to feel comfortable being near his grandfather after the amputation.

'When Mr Stojanovski's grandson got older, he started asking questions which made Mr Stojanovski even more upset because 'how could you possibly explain to a five-year-old the whys and hows of what has happened,' the judgement stated.

Visy pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a work health and safety duty and was issued with a $375,000 fine.

The judge acknowledged Visy's remorse and 'good prospects of rehabilitation'.

'It has taken positive steps to guard against the risk of an incident such as this ever happening again,' the judgement added.

'It has brought its documentation and its procedures into line with those which, on all the evidence, should have been in place before this incident occurred.'

SafeWork NSW hopes the findings into the incident are a timely reminder to all workplaces.

'Visy were aware of the danger their employees were working in and, despite being given steps to eliminate or minimise the risk, did not act appropriately to address the risk,' SafeWork NSW head Trent Curtin said in a statement.

'Mobile plant, including trolley cars, have the potential to seriously injure or kill people.

'Workplaces need to identify risks such as where mobile plant might interact with people and design their workplace layout so that vehicles and pedestrians are separate wherever possible.'

Established in 1948, Visy began in Shepparton, Victoria and has since expanded to 150 sites and 7,000 employees across Australia.

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