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January 2020

Lack of training results in amputation

Lack of training results in amputation

SafeWork NSW v Freedom Foods Pty Ltd (2016)

Facts

Freedom Foods Pty Ltd (Company) operated a cereal and snack food manufacturing business. On 28 July 2014, Mr Torbuck, an employee, was working alone when a Flake roller machine became blocked. He kicked the chute to stop the products from continuing to pass into the machine, and then unclipped and removed the in-feed chute. This action did not stop the machine from operating.

Mr Torbuck then used a broom handle to try to clear the blockage. In doing so, he balanced himself on top of the machine and the mobile work platform. In the process, Mr Torbuck slipped and his hand fell into the rollers, which grabbed his fingers and started turning, thereby causing him injury that resulted in the amputation of four fingers of his right hand.

Judgment

The Court found that employees of the Company had been generally instructed not to remove guards from machines while they were moving but that Mr Torbuck had not been trained in isolation procedures or how to clear blockages in the machine.

He had not been trained how to operate the machine safely. Any systems in place at the time of the incident were behavioural controls only, and Mr Torbuck’s supervisor was absent at the time.

The Court also found that the risk in this case could have been eliminated by the use of an interlock device that prevented the in-feed chute from being removed while the rollers underneath were moving. The Company fitted such a device following the incident.

The Company was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $75,000.

Lessons

Businesses must ensure there are safe procedures in place for the cleaning of plant, including unblocking, so that workers are not exposed to nip or crush injuries. All levels of risk controls should be implemented where practicable, including interlock devices to ensure that the plant is not powered or operational during cleaning.

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