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Failure to implement a safe practice to clean equipment costs company $55,000

A failure to implement safe practices for isolating equipment before being cleaned has resulted in a $55,000 fine for a baked goods company, after a worker became entrapped and seriously injured in a conveyor.

The Outback Pie Company in Queensland operated a Downhill Spiral Freezer Conveyor, which was used to move frozen products from the freezer to the packing room. Around May 2019, the conveyor belt was replaced, and it was threaded in such a way that exposed the tension roller on its underside, and created an unguarded nip point between the roller and the conveyor belt that was accessible by workers.

On 23 October 2020, a worker was using a scraper to clean product from the tension roller on the underside of the conveyor when their sleeve got caught, resulting in the worker suffering multiple fractures of their left arm. The worker required surgery and was unable to work for at least 4 months.

Following the incident, the company promptly developed and implemented a standard operating procedure for the task of cleaning the conveyor, which included switching off the belt during cleaning. If the rollers required an extra clean to get rid of build up, then the control panel would need to be isolated with a padlock on the main power switch.

The company pleaded guilty to a failure to comply with its primary duty to ensure workers’ health and safety pursuant to section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld). The Court heard that, although the conveyor had to be cleaned daily and it was a common practice of workers to clean it while it was operating, the company had never conducted a risk assessment or developed a safe work instruction for the activity.

In imposing the penalty, the Court noted that the offence was serious, the risk was obvious and the low-cost measures that were developed by the company after the incident could easily have been implemented beforehand.

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