Most workplace injuries are preventable.
If you implement simple, easy-to-use and understandable processes, you can significantly reduce workplace risk.
In 2017, a metal packaging manufacturer was fined $180,000 for an incident that the introduction of simple training and a checklist process would have prevented.
Part of the plant of the company comprised a manual, pneumatic, clutch-activated metal press for nozzle-clenching tasks. On the day of the incident, the press used was changed from nozzle-clenching to piercing rectangular tops. The guarding systems on the press had to be disengaged in this retooling process.
At the completion of the piercing work, the line-setter reset the press to clenching but failed to reinstall the interruption bar for the mechanical interlock or reconnect the pneumatic interlock guarding system. Either one would have prevented the injury that subsequently occurred.
An operator was asked to recommence work creating the nozzle closures. She had only undertaken the task twice before and had received an hour’s training in the press operation, but not in its safe use.
The physical guard was up when she started work and as the press closed it caught her right hand, causing a crush injury that required the amputation of her middle finger and part of her index and ring fingers.
In the hearing, the judge found that the following very simple systems could have prevented the incident:
- the use of a mandatory checklist to be completed before work was resumed after re-tooling;
- appropriate safety training for all operators in how to use the manual press machine safely; and
- the use of an automatic press that avoided the need for operators to be exposed to risk.
All of these actions were implemented after the incident.
In this case, the replacement of the manual press with a faster, safer automatic model would have had a rapid return on investment, and prevented injury and cost.
If not replacement of the press, then the new system adopted by the company after the incident would have significantly reduced the risks of injury and complied with its health and safety obligations.