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Worker dies after being trapped in conveyor belt

Employers need to be alert to the risk of workers becoming entangled in moving machinery and equipment following a fatality in Queensland this year when a worker became trapped in a conveyor belt system at a recycling facility.

WHS Queensland is still investigating the incident which serves as a timely reminder to ensure that effective isolation, lockout and tag-out procedures are undertaken if there is a risk of entrapment.

Common hazards are posed to workers during activities such as maintenance and cleaning, including removal of blockages.

The Queensland safety regulator has reminded businesses that an isolation and lock-out process includes:

  • isolating the moving machinery from all energy sources that can cause harm;
  • locking all the isolating units in the isolated position; and
  • dissipating or restraining any stored energy that may give rise to a hazard.

Further, if any type of guarding is removed for maintenance or cleaning:

  • the guarding must be replaced before the machine is put back into operation; and
  • the plant should not be able to restart unless the guarding is in place.

In Queensland alone, there has been an average of 386 workers’ compensation claims each year since 2013 that relate to workers being trapped by moving machinery or equipment.

In 2015, WHS Queensland successfully prosecuted a company which was fined $35,000 after a worker sustained serious injury when his arm was drawn into a conveyor.

The worker had observed a problem with the conveyor while it was being shut down.

He was using his index finger to feel where the belt was grabbing at the tail drum of the conveyor when he was distracted by another worker. The guarding on the machine had also been removed for a repair and not replaced.

It is important your organisation audits its processes to ensure that isolation and lock-out processes, as well as adequate guarding is in place. Training and supervision is also critical to make sure that those processes are being followed.

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