Serious injury and ongoing impairments lead to $200K+ fine


Serious injury and ongoing impairments lead to $200K+ fine

Paul Dean | Founder/Director

food factory: assembly line with apples and workers

Zerella Holdings Pty Ltd, a fresh produce business in South Australia, has been fined $210,000 by the The South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET). The judgement was handed down following an incident that took place in October 2017 that resulted in a worker being dragged into a water pit with a moving agitator. 

According to the Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities 2019 report by Safe Work Australia, being trapped between moving and stationary objects is the sixth-highest circumstance that results in worker fatalities. In 2019, it accounted for 5% of all fatalities, tying it in equal position with being trapped by moving machinery, which also accounted for 5%. These figures are preceded by vehicle collisions which accounted for 43% of all fatalities, followed by falls from a height and being hit by falling objects both at 11% and being hit by moving objects at 7%.   

Fortunately, this particular situation did not result in a fatality, however the seriousness of safety issues arising from such circumstances cannot be overemphasised.

The incident

While attempting to clean a sump pump that had been raised from a potato wash pit, a male worker was seriously injured. His clothing was caught in an unguarded rotating agitator shaft as he leant over it. This caused the worker to be dragged into the pit where he was spun around the agitator shaft where the clothing on his upper body was torn off. He was subsequently thrown onto a platform within the pit and therefore avoided falling into the water below.

The safety breaches 

Investigations carried out by SafeWork South Australia identified: 

  • there was no safe operating procedure for the plant and equipment, in particular for the maintenance of the sump pump
  • the defendant failed to have adequate training and appropriate supervision in place.

Zerella Holdings Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA). It breached its s19 duty to ensure the safety of workers whilst at work thereby exposing them to the risk of serious injury or death.

More specifically, Zerella failed to:

  • maintain the plant including guards around the rotating PTO shaft
  • use a safe system of work to minimise the risk of injury
  • prepare a Safe Operating Procedure that related to the plant and tasks
  • provide adequate supervision when undertaking the task
  • adequately train workers to undertake the task safely.


The fine

Though the offence carried a maximum penalty of $1,500,000, Zerella Holdings Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $300,000 before a 30% discount was applied for an early guilty plea. In the end, the SAET convicted Zerella and issued a fine of $210,000 plus costs.

For more information on this incident visit SafeWork SA.

Don’t wait till it’s too late

During sentencing, Deputy President Magistrate Cole stated, “the defendant has taken extensive remedial steps …. and implemented a full review of its safety measures. The defendant has learnt its lesson and is unlikely to reoffend, the penalty in this case needs to reinforce the importance of the defendant not breaching work health and safety requirements in the future.” 

Though we applaud the defendant taking actions to improve their safety systems, it shouldn’t take an incident like this for an employer to take safety seriously. Time and time again we see serious injuries or fatalities that could have been prevented with sound safety systems in place. The time to check how safe your systems are is right now and the team at Plant Assessor is here to help you do just that.

Take the test & find out

Since 2004, Plant Assessor has been helping people take control of their safety systems relating to plant and machinery.

We have an easy to use self-diagnostic tool, MACHINERY SAFETY SYSTEM HEALTH CHECK, designed to help people who use plant and machinery understand how solid their safety systems are. 

We urge you to take the test and get a better understanding of your system’s health now, before it really is too late.

It doesn’t have to be difficult

Contrary to what you might currently think getting your machinery safety right, doesn’t have to be a complicated process. At Plant Assessor, we have a team of safety experts at the ready to help with your system diagnosis or any other plant and machinery safety concerns you may have. So if you need help, please get in touch and let us get your safety systems sorted today.

Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. This is not intended as legal or expert advice for your specific situation. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the content of this information.

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