A worker was seriously injured by machinery at a nursery. After an investigation, it was revealed that sufficient hazard controls were not in place to reduce the risk of injury. The company was fined $52,500, without conviction.
In October 2020, a worker was tasked with putting seed trays through a seeding line machine. This piece of equipment places seeds in tray cells as they move along a conveyor belt.
Believing the machine to be turned off, the worker reached into the machine in order to clear spilled seeds. Her arm became entangled between the feeder bar, which was moving, and an axle, which caused serious damage to the worker’s arm and hand.
During the investigation, WorkSafe acknowledged that the company had not taken practicable steps to ensure workers were safe when operating the seeding line machine, and had failed in its duty of care.
Specifically, the court heard how no guards had been installed around the exit of the machine – which would have prevented the worker from putting their hand inside.
Speaking on the incident, WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer spoke of the importance of assessing and controlling well-known risks associated with dangerous machinery.
“It’s absolutely essential that duty holders are doing everything they can to protect workers from the risk of machine entanglement. It’s not enough to simply tell workers to be cautious. There needs to be proper guarding around danger areas of a machine to prevent gruesome injuries like this.”
“Tragically, there have been 20 workplace fatalities so far this year. WorkSafe will not hesitate to prosecute employers who fail to provide safe and healthy working environments.”
The company pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to provide or maintain plant that was safe and without risk to health. They were fined $52,500 without conviction, and ordered to pay $3,716 in costs.
A reminder to conduct a thorough risk assessment
Incidents like this are entirely preventable. With a machinery risk assessment, followed by implementing hazard controls determined by the hierarchy of controls, the risk of entanglement in the machine could have been identified and mitigated.
At Plant Assessor, we specialise in providing machinery-specific risk assessments that guide assessors through a step-by-step process to fully assess their equipment, and help to identify steps they need to take to be compliant with WHS law.
To manage risks when working with machinery employers should:
Identify hazards, assess the risks associated with them and eliminate or control those risks by isolating them or using an alternative.
Train staff in the safe operation of machines and equipment and provide written procedures in the worker’s first language.
Develop and implement safe operating procedures in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives.
Ensure safety guards and gates are compliant and fixed to machines at all times.
Regularly service and inspect machines and equipment.
Place signs on or near a machine to alert employees of the dangers of operating it.
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.