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Food Maker Fined $60K after Worker Loses Finger

Wed, 03/28/2012 - 6:08am

MELBOURNE, Australia (WorkSafe) — An Australian food manufacturer has been fined $60,000 over an incident that left a worker with a severed finger after it was caught in a machine.

Healthy Snacks Australia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty at the Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court this week to one count of failing to provide a safe system of work and proper instruction, training and supervision.

The incident happened on 29 June 2010 when the worker went to clean a processing machine -- used to manufacture and pack health food bars -- after production had finished.

The court heard the worker crawled under the machine to clean its rollers and that it was common practice for employees to remove guarding.

The machine remained switched on so the worker could clean the rollers while they were moving. It was during this time that the cloth became stuck between the rollers.

When she went to pull the cloth out, her other hand which was resting on the machine for balance, came into contact with the moving parts and the top of her middle finger was severed.

WorkSafe’s investigation found the company failed to:

  • Undertake any risk assessment associated with the use of the machine.
  • Ensure employees did not clean the machine while it was operating and while it was possible to access dangerous moving parts.
  • Provide any standardised or consistent training and supervision to workers who cleaned the machine.
  • Provide employees with standard operating procedures, including cleaning procedures for the machine.

Magistrate Barrett fined the company $60,000 without conviction and order it pay $3430 in costs to WorkSafe.

WorkSafe’s Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture Acting Director, Mary Chojnacki said providing appropriate guarding was a fundamental requirement.

“A serious injury and a $60,000 fine could have been prevented if appropriate steps were taken to adequately guard and supervise the machine while it was being cleaned, something that would have cost far less,” she said.

“If there are instances where machines can operate without guarding, employers need to fix this as a matter of urgency. Not doing so is just not worth it.”

“Despite the obvious risks it is unfortunately all too common for machines to be kept running while they’re being cleaned. Every time that happens, there is a risk of serious injury or death.”

“WorkSafe takes incidents like this seriously. In this case, the company was investigated and charged in just eight months.”

“This sends a strong message to all employers that safety must be a priority. The consequences can be not only immediate for the worker but for businesses, an unwanted court appearance and potential fine.”

“WorkSafe actively enforces the law. Since July last year, 79 prosecutions have commenced compared with 56 in the previous corresponding period.”

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