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Second-hand plant and equipment require first-rate risk assessments

You must ensure you undertake a risk assessment of any plant and equipment when it is commissioned, whether it is new or second hand.

The importance of undertaking a risk assessment when introducing plant or equipment into the workplace was highlighted in a recent case, reported by ABC News, about an unguarded bottling machine that caused serious injury to a worker at a fruit juice manufacturer.

In 2019, Lencia Fruit Juices purchased a second-hand bottling machine but failed to install adequate guarding. Shortly after the machine commenced operation, a worker’s hand was caught in the machine while he was trying to remove fallen empty bottles. Another worker stopped the machine, but the injured worker had part of the skin on his hand degloved.

The Magistrate’s Court heard the matter despite the company having gone into administration by the date of the hearing. The Court heard that an interchangeable plate that guided bottles through the machine did not fit the bottles the company was using. Within 2 weeks following the incident, the company installed adequate guarding to prevent a recurrence of the incident.

The Court found the company guilty of a breach of section 21(1) and 21(2)(a) of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2004. The company was convicted and fined $30,000.

This case is reminiscent of the New Zealand case last year when Homegrown Juice Co Ltd was ordered to pay about NZD$500,000 in fines and reparations after a worker was killed by a machine that the company had purchased from overseas. The company had not taken steps to have the machine risk assessed by engineers.

These cases demonstrate the importance of conducting a risk assessment of plant and equipment being introduced into the workplace.

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