An employee of a Melbourne bakery company had his arm severed in a workplace accident in 2013. The cause of the accident was a failure to replace the guarding on a dough-processing machine.
The bakery company recently pleaded guilty in the Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court to a single rolled up charge that consisted of failing to maintain a plant that was safe and without health risks and failure to provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to health for their employees. The court convicted the bakery company, imposing a fine of $60,000 plus $4,473 in costs.
The court heard that on 1st December 2013, workers stopped a dough-processing machine to replace a bearing on the machine’s conveyor belt. After finishing the work, an employee deliberately left off the guarding underneath the conveyor because regularly scheduled maintenance for the machine was to take place the following morning. The staff were asked to alert all workers that they should stay clear of the area where guarding had been removed.
A wet dough mixture started to clog the machine’s conveyor belt that evening, so they stopped the machine to clean the rollers and belt. Soon after turning the machine back on, the worker tried to clean underneath the conveyor and his arm became trapped in the rollers. It took more than 40 minutes to free him and transport him to hospital, where doctors were unable to reattach his amputated arm.
The WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety said that poorly guarded machinery is a major source for serious workplace injuries and that leaving the guarding off the machine was a disastrous decision. Giving convenience a higher priority than safety for employees led to serious repercussions that will affect the injured employee and haunt co-workers who assisted him for the rest of their lives. Guarding is one of the most basic ways to protect employees.
Whenever a serious injury occurs, the companies tell the courts that they have taken the necessary steps to improve safety for their workers. However, by then it is too late. Every business has a fundamental obligation to ensure safety for their workers. It is part of the costs of conducting business. The message here is very clear – always replace guarding after removing it for cleaning or maintenance.
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