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Lack of safe work procedure for plant maintenance has fatal results

The failure of an aluminium production company to put in place tag out and isolation procedures for its conveyor system has resulted in the tragic death of a worker and fine of $150,000 (WorkSafe Queensland v Criterion Industries Qld Pty Ltd [2024]).

The production company, Criterion Industries Qld Pty Ltd, operates a factory in Pinkenba, Queensland. Its production activities include cutting aluminium to size and powder-coating metal for use in the commercial and residential building industry.

On 21 June 2022, a worker who was engaged to perform maintenance work on the overhead conveyor system at the company’s factory became entangled in the unloading section of conveyor system. This caused the worker to fall from his ladder and hit his head on the concrete floor below. The worker died from blunt-force trauma injuries to his head.

The company was charged under section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) for its failure to take reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or minimise the risk of entanglement.

The Magistrate found that it was reasonably practicable for the company to implement:

  • a safe work procedure that required maintenance workers to lock out and tag out the conveyor system before carrying out repair works; and
  • supervision measures to ensure maintenance workers complied with the safe work procedure.

The company entered a guilty plea and was fined $150,000.

In determining the appropriate sentence, the Magistrate considered the extensive safe work procedures implemented after the incident, which could have been implemented prior. These procedures included a requirement that maintenance workers notify another worker of the scheduled repairs, tag out the conveyor system and fill-in a maintenance log before carrying out maintenance works on the conveyor system.

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