A recent prosecution by WorkSafe Victoria relating to a horrific incident involving a moving conveyor belt is a salient reminder of the hazards and risks associated with plant. A labour hire company that specialises in providing backpacker workers to the fruit packing industry has been convicted and fined $60,000 and ordered to pay costs of $8091 over an incident that occurred in November 2015 in Shepparton, Victoria.
The company pleaded guilty in the Shepparton Magistrates Court to one breach of the OHS Act 2004 for failing to provide a safe working environment by failing to provide instruction and training. Other charges have been laid by WorkSafe Victoria against the host organisation and a manager.
The incident took place in a packing shed in Shepparton. The court heard that workers were required to clean two conveyors while they were energised and moving. The injured person was assessing the underside of the second conveyor in order to scrub its surfaces when her hair became entangled in a rotating drive shaft and her scalp was torn from her head. She also had one of her ears torn off in the incident.
There was no safe system of work in place that required isolation of the conveyors from energy sources during the cleaning process. Another finding was that there was no training provided to workers thus potentially exposing all workers to significant risks to their health and safety from hazards such as entanglement, entrapment and crush injuries.
This incident has an 'all-to-familiar' ring about it as the various health and safety regulators across Australia regularly take action after incidents involving plant that forms a high risk. Each jurisdiction has legislation, supporting codes and guidance that can assist in the selection of appropriate control measures.
If you require any assistance with ensuring that your plant is safe and compliant or if you require further information or training on this topic, please contact HAZCON.