Vegetable business fined $15,000 after worker’s arm caught in conveyor

A company that owns a vegetable farm and packing facility in Mandogalup has been fined $15,000 over an incident in which a worker’s arm was injured when it was trapped in a conveyor belt.

Ellement Bros Pty Ltd (trading as Ellement Produce) pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that dangerous parts of a machine were securely guarded and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court on Monday.

In May 2019, the injured worker was assisting another worker in the processing area where leeks were fed in and straightened before traveling on the conveyor to be further processed.

The worker saw there was “gunk” in the lower conveyor – waste from the washing and processing of the leeks – and when he attempted to clear the waste his right arm became caught in the conveyor.

Other workers pulled the emergency stop cord and cut the conveyor belt to free the worker’s arm.

He suffered broken forearm bones and an open puncture wound and underwent surgery for internal fixation of his forearm bones.

Contrary to the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996, the company had not installed any physical guarding over dangerous parts of the lower conveyor. Such guarding would have prevented the worker from coming into contact with moving parts while the machine was operating.

Acting WorkSafe Commissioner Sally North said today there were two areas of serious concern associated with this incident.

“The company was charged over failing to guard the moving parts of this machinery, but employers must also have in place procedures to conduct cleaning or maintenance only when a machine is de-energised and isolated,“ Ms North said.

“This case should serve as a reminder to all workplaces to effectively guard all moving parts of machinery, and also to have procedures in place for isolating machinery during maintenance or cleaning and to ensure that all workers are aware of these procedures and the need to follow them.

“Subsequent to this incident, WorkSafe inspectors visited the workplace and issued five Improvement Notices related to guarding, lock out tag out systems and notifying injuries to WorkSafe.

“As a result of these notices, permanent guarding was installed on the conveyors on the machine involved in this incident, a formal lock out tag out process was introduced, workers received additional health and safety training and a written procedure titled “Work Health and Safety Management System” was created.

“This case has resulted in substantial improvements to health and safety management in this workplace and has also led to a reminder to all workplaces with machinery of the importance of guarding and safety during maintenance.”

The code of practice “Safeguarding of machinery and plant” outlines the hazards associated with machinery, including unguarded conveyors. It is available on WorkSafe’s website.

Source: Commerce WA

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