09:27 am, Thursday 1 April, 2010
The Armadale Magistrates Court has fined a commercial food manufacturer, its director/manager and production manager on March 18 after a worker lost two fingers in a cheese grinder.
The parties pleaded guilty to charges under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
The company was charged with failing to provide a safe working environment, causing serious harm to an employee and fined $20,000. The director was charged with neglect and fined $1,500. The production manager was charged with failing to take reasonable care, causing serious harm to another person and fined $1,500.
On 29 May 2006, the worker was mincing blocks of cheese at the firm’s Canning Vale worksite.
The employee turned the machine on and reached down to push the cheese into the auger. As he did so, his left hand touched the auger. His index and middle fingers were cut off as a result.
The court heard the director could observe the employee with his hand in the hopper.
The production manager was in charge of day-to-day food processing operations and supervised the staff. According to WorkSafe, he had seen staff pushing food into the auger while the grinder was operating, and had done so himself.
The manager also knew the grinder’s interlock mechanism, was not functioning at the time of the incident.
The food company installed an interlocking guard after the incident to prevent workers from reaching into the hopper while the grinder is turned on.
According to WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne, the case serves as a reminder of the need to guard the machinery’s moving parts.
“The employee’s serious injuries would have been avoided if the company had taken steps to install effective guarding,” she said.
“Guarding of moving parts of machinery is vital, and is still one of the easiest and most obvious means of minimising the risk of injury to machinery operators. I strongly urge employers in workplaces with machinery to ensure that it is safe to operate.”
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