VIC: Machine Guard Failures Lead to Fines for 4 Firms

Two separate abattoirs and their respective contract cleaning companies have been prosecuted for injuries to cleaners in almost similar circumstances.

WorkSafe has prosecuted all four companies under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 for failings including inadequate staff training and unguarded machinery.

An abattoir from Ararat was convicted and fined $20,000 yesterday, while its service provider was convicted and fined $55,000, after a machine accident in 2008. A contract cleaner’s arm was caught in a conveyor as he stretched to reach for a piece of meat.

In a similar incident prosecuted in February, a Warrnambool-based meat abattoir and its contractor were convicted after a worker’s arm was dragged into an unguarded conveyor in 2007. The meat company was fined $35,000 and the cleaning company $25,000.

Both incidents identified similar failings by the parties.

The two cleaning contractor companies did not provide training and instruction to staff on how to clean dangerous machinery; and failed to carry out safety procedures to ‘lock out and tag out’ machines before cleaning.

The two abattoirs failed to install proper machine guards: Ararat-based company’s conveyor had removable guards, which allowed workers to access the machine’s danger area. As for the Warrnambool-based company, small holes on each side of the unguarded conveyor were found, and the cleaners’ hands could access hazardous moving parts.

Commenting on the cases, WorkSafe’s Acting Executive Director for Health and Safety Stan Krpan said:

“The fact that we’re continuing to see these sorts of cases is not acceptable. Guards that can be removed, or that don’t prevent access to dangerous machinery, are useless. And not training staff to know that you need to make sure a machine is tagged as being ‘off’ before cleaning it, is inexcusable.

“These prosecutions are a message to industry – that basic safety failings like we’ve seen in these two cases are indefensible – WorkSafe recognises this, and so do the courts.”

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