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September 2020

Worker’s arm becomes entrapped in a meat processing plant

Worker’s arm becomes entrapped in a meat processing plant

Case

Diamond Valley Pork Pty Ltd

A worker was seriously injured while working in an offal room at a meat processing plant operated by Diamond Valley Pork Pty Ltd (company).

Employees at the workplace were required to operate a casing machine that featured an offal chute and a pneumatic ram, which pushed the meat waste down the chute. The company had previously identified there was a risk that employees could be crushed, entangled or trapped if they entered the area where the offal chute was located. To mitigate this risk, the company installed a guard above the opening of the offal chute. However, the guard did not prevent workers from accessing the area altogether.

Five years after the risk was first identified, a worker was injured when he reached down into the offal chute to retrieve a knife that had fallen into the chute. The worker’s arm and hand became entrapped in the offal chute by the pneumatic ram. The injured worker’s hand was able to be reattached but required serious rehabilitation.

The company was charged with contraventions of sections 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (OHS Act).

Judgment

The Court noted that the company had identified the safety risk that eventually caused the worker’s injury, but the measures it had taken were inadequate in that they did not prevent workers from accessing the dangerous area of the plant where the offal chute was located. Within days of the worker’s injury, the company took further measures and a guard was installed to prevent worker access to the area entirely.

The Court held that the company had failed to maintain plant that was safe and without risks to health so far as reasonably practicable.

The company pleaded guilty to the charges, and was convicted and sentenced to pay $130,000.

Lessons

Employers should seek to fully eliminate rather than just reduce risks to health and safety, where possible. Where a risk has been identified, you should not just rely on providing workers with training for safe use of the plant if it is possible to engineer out the risk completely.

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