For one Australian employer, the death of an employee will hit them hard in the pocket.
A garden fertilizer company has been fined $100,000 over the 2012 death of a labor hire worker at its Jandakot premises.
A Richards Pty Ltd – trading as Richgro Garden Products – recently pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing the death of a labor hire worker, and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court.
In January 2008, Richgro installed an automated robot palletizer used to automatically stack bagged fertilizer onto a pallet.
The robot was surrounded by a 6ft-high steel mesh perimeter fence that Richgro had accepted the obligation to install. The fence had two safe points of access into the robot’s operating area.
However, at the time of installing the fence, Richgro failed to install a panel of the fencing required by the design, which left a gap.
Approximately one year later, Richgro removed a fence panel from the perimeter fence surrounding the robot and installed a gate in its place. However, Richgro failed to install an interlock on the gate.
As a result, workers were able to enter the robot’s operating area, exposing them to the hazard of being struck or pinned by the robot.
Employee Pinned in Workplace Accident
In August 2012, a robot operator was killed when he entered the operating area of the robot and was pinned against the conveyor coming out of the bag flattener.
The Magistrate found that the failure to install a fence panel that created the gap, along with the installation of the gate without an interlock safety device was reckless and that Richgro’s breach of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 resulted in the operator’s death.
WorkSafe WA Acting Executive Director Ian Munns said the case illustrated the importance of guarding hazardous parts of machinery and having safe work procedures in place at all times.
“Many workers have been seriously injured or killed when equipment or machinery they were working on has been activated, so it’s absolutely crucial that safe systems of work are in place,” Munns said.
“Subsequent to this incident, the employer installed an interlock on the access gate and a fence to guard the gap in the bag flattener area and added some further safety features to robot.
“This cost the employer a total of only around $3,500, a relatively small price to pay to safeguard the lives of the company’s employees. If the changes had been made earlier, the worker probably would not have lost his life.”
Author Kori Shafer-Stack, Editor, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in post-injury response procedures and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: email@example.com.
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