A fruit juice manufacturer has been fined $30,000 over an incident at its Mildura bottling plant in which one of its workers had the skin ripped off part of his hand.
Lencia Fruit Juices bought a second-hand bottling machine in June 2019 to replace an older model, the Mildura Magistrates Court heard, but it did not install protective guarding. On June 17 last year, Lencia employee Joshua Parker’s hand became caught in the machine after he reached in to remove empty bottles that had fallen underneath a filler bowl.
Another employee hit the machine’s emergency stop button and called triple-0 but the machine had to be partially dismantled and cut open so Mr Parker could be freed.
The court heard an interchangeable plate that guided bottles through the machine did not fit the bottles the company was using. Empty bottles would also fall from the conveyor belt because a component was missing, the court heard, and employees would retrieve them by hand.
The court heard WorkSafe Victoria inspectors attended Lencia’s plant the day of the incident and noticed numerous areas where access could be gained to working components, putting staff at risk of injuries from entanglement or crushing.
Lencia was charged with breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act by failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment, which carried a maximum fine of $402,975 if dealt with summarily.
Lencia has gone into liquidation since the incident and its plea hearing went ahead in the magistrates court without any company representative present.
Mr Parker was flown to The Alfred hospital after the incident and later underwent further operations to his hand. He attempted to return to work last November but was only able to do so for a few days. In a statement to the court, Mr Parker said he struggled to do work around the house and had not been able to pursue his hobbies of tinkering with cars, riding motorbikes, or playing computer games.
“I have become very withdrawn from people and struggle to see the positives of life,” he said.
After the incident, Lencia fitted a cage around the bottling machine with sensors that stopped it from operating if a door was opened, the court heard. Employees were also trained in a new safe operating procedure and warning signs were installed.
Magistrate Michael Coghlan said the incident was preventable and a fine would not wind back the clock.
“I do hope for your sake you are appropriately compensated when it goes through the normal litigation processes,” he said.
Source: ABC News