A worker was crushed to death by machinery at a fertiliser factory in Narangba, QLD. After an investigation revealed the company had failed to comply with WHS standards, the company was fined $250,000.
A fertiliser factory in Narangba, QLD, became the site of a devastating tragedy in March 2020, after a worker was crushed to death by machinery.
The factory where the incident occurred included a bagging room, where – after being filled with fertiliser – bags were sealed, flattened and stacked. At each stage of this process, bags were moved along by an exposed conveyor.
The worker involved was found unconscious on the conveyor, after his upper body had been drawn into the flattener. He had suffered severe traumatic head injuries caused by blunt force, and could unfortunately not be revived.
An investigation was immediately launched into the incident by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. They concluded that workers were routinely exposed to significant risk of serious injury from contact with the moving conveyor.
During their investigation they discovered that it was routine procedure to manually remove bags that had not been properly sealed from the conveyor. After resealing, they would be returned to the conveyor before they had reached the flattener.
It was during this manual process that the worker made contact with the conveyor, and was drawn into the flattener, resulting in the catastrophic injury.
They also concluded that the company had not taken sufficient steps to minimise or eliminate this risk. Measures could have included controls such as the installation of guards, or the creation of exclusion zones. The risk could have been mitigated entirely by ensuring workers did not touch bags on the conveyor at all.
Unfortunately, there was no risk assessment conducted for the bagging room, and operating procedures for workers using the conveyor belt were none existent.
As such, during sentencing, the judge determined that the steps which could have been taken to prevent the incident from happening were not elaborate. The company pleaded guilty for failing in its duty of care to provide a safe working environment, and exposing workers to the risk of death or serious injury.
The company was fined $250,000, but a conviction was not recorded, the judge noting the company, aside from this incident, had implemented safety practices and was of otherwise good corporate character.
A timely reminder
This incident shows the danger of allowing complacency to creep into work practices. Had a thorough risk assessment been conducted on the machinery involved, the risk of crushing could have been identified – and importantly – hazard controls implemented to control or mitigate that risk.
Sadly, this incident was entirely avoidable if proper WHS practices had been carried out.
At Plant Assessor, we provide the simple tools to assess the risks of your machinery, and detail the hazard controls you need to implement to ensure you are compliant to the WHS legislation.
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