A fruit packing company in Shepparton Victoria has been convicted and fined $150,000 on appeal following an incident which left an employee with horrific scalping injuries.
In January last year, WorkSafe charged Kalafatis with failing to provide and maintain a safe plant, and one charge of failing to maintain a safe system of work.
The company was fined $50,000 without conviction and ordered to pay $22,000 in costs in the Shepparton Magistrates Court.
However, the fine was increased and a conviction imposed in the Shepparton County Court, following an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In the initial hearing, the court was told that a backpacker employed at the company was cleaning the underside of a conveyor belt in November 2015 when her hair was caught in a drive shaft.
The rotating drive shafts and sprockets were unguarded and workers were expected to clean the conveyor belt while it was operating, leading to a serious risk of injury from entanglement.
Employees should never be expected to clean machinery such as conveyor belts while they were in operation, said WorkSafe acting executive director of health and safety, Paul Fowler.
“The dangers of having workers reaching into moving machinery should be obvious to any employer, and the idea that this practice would even still go on in Victorian workplaces is shocking and completely unacceptable,” Fowler said.
“The time or cost saved by not powering down is never worth the horrific injuries that could occur, and did in fact occur on this occasion.”
Tips for cleaning plant and equipment safely:
Ensure machines are powered down and fully secured before cleaning begins.
Ensure workers are properly trained and supervised so they understand the risks associated with the plant and equipment being cleaned.
Ensure machinery is properly guarded and safety interlocks are regularly checked.
Ensure warning lights and sounds are working
Ensure any conveyor system has a lanyard type emergency stop system that will enable a person anywhere along a conveyor to gain immediate access to the emergency stop
If a lanyard type emergency stop can’t be installed, ensure interlocked guarding is installed along the length of the conveyor