1 min read

Tag-out systems switch on safety

A recent Victorian case, in which a manufacturer was fined $25,000, highlights the need for proper isolation and tag-out systems during machine operation.

The manufacturer, Thermogard Pty Ltd, produces insulated foil bags for food transportation and preservation. The production process for the bags involves feeding insulated material into an extrusion and bag converting machine. Thermogard typically employs three workers to monitor the machine and adjust the rollers and cutting blades to avoid the build-up of excess foil during the production process. Given the serious risk of injury associated with this task, the machine is routinely deactivated while the workers are nearby.

Prior to April 2022, there was no fencing or guarding around the machine. Thermogard instead relied upon bollards to mark out a safe zone for workers. Perimeter fencing was installed in April 2022 in response to an improvement notice issued by WorkSafe Victoria.

A few months after the fencing was installed, on 7 June 2022, a worker inadvertently restarted the machine while another worker was repositioning the insulated foil on the in-running rollers. The second worker’s hand became trapped between the rollers, causing them to sustain a partial de-gloving injury and a fractured finger. The energy to the machine had not been isolated and tagged out properly.

Thermogard was charged and pleaded guilty to a breach of section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) for its failure to provide or maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to health.

The Court determined the fine that should have been imposed was $60,000 but reduced the amount to $25,000 to take into account the capacity of Thermogard to pay the fine. The Court also had regard to the company’s early guilty plea, prior clean criminal record and the significant remedial action Thermogard took after the incident, which involved the CEO visiting each workplace to oversee the implementation of new safety measures.

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