Abattoir workers assured of protection with bandsaw safety technology

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It is designed to help reduce the risk of serious injuries by stopping the bandsaw blade within 15 milliseconds upon sensing that a person has come in contact with the blade. Photo By dottorpeni (dedicated to pier 2) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A new bandsaw technology is gaining popularity because of it’s design which helps reduce the risk of serious injuries by stopping the bandsaw blade within 15 milliseconds upon sensing that a person has come in contact with the blade.

BladeStop is an innovative product developed by Machinery Automation & Robotics with funding provided by Meat & Livestock Australia and the Australian Meat Processor Corporation. As part of their commitment to improving work health and safety (WHS) outcomes in the industry, both Research and Development Corporations are part of the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP)

Safe Work Australia 2012-2013 data reveals that there were 95 accepted workers compensation claims and $400,000 paid in compensation due to powered saws in Australia’s meat and meat product manufacturing industry.

The Australian meat processing sector is gaining confidence on BladeStop with some businesses investing in the product.

Southern Meats in Golgourn in southern New South Wales invested in several BladeStop bandsaws. It’s OH&S Manager, Claire Graham said four major incidents in five years involving traditional bandsaws resulted in more than 800 hours of lost time, and more thn $100,000 in worker compensation claims. This prompted the company to invest on its workers’ safety.

“In one incident, the employee lost partial movement in his thumb, while another required a skin graft,” said Ms Graham.

“In contrast, the only incident on a BladeStop bandsaw resulted in a small cut on the operator’s thumb which was dealt with at our on-site medical centre and the employee was back at work straight away.”

Southern Meats process about 3000 to 5000 lambs daily and employs about 320 staff members, depending on the season. Majority of their products are imported to North America, the European Union, and Muslim countries. They process lambs locally for Costco Australia.

Ms Graham admitted that prior to using BladeStop, it was hard to encourage people to learn how to operate the bandsaw.

“Nobody wants to learn a more dangerous job that can potentially cause amputation of fingers and loss of income – which can lead to added stress for those that have families. Now a lot more staff members are interested in learning the ropes on the new bandsaws,” said Ms Graham.

A Southern Meats employee shared how this new technology made his work safer.

“I severed a tendon in my thumb when the blade went through the top part of my knuckle while I was cutting a sheep spine. I’m now back at work and using both types of machines, and think the new technology is amazing. It gives all of us a greater sense of confidence,” said Fred McGregor.

“You put on a belt which is attached to the bandsaw – it’s like a wire circuit and you become the relay. As soon as you come into contact with the blade, the machine reacts, pushes the ram out, grabs the blade and stops it instantly.

“You feel a lot safer. You feel confident that you’re not going to have a more severe injury, and therefore you know you’ll get home to your family at the end of the day in one piece,” he said.

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