Company fined $15k after worker's arm dragged into machine

Amcor Flexibles (Port Melbourne) Pty Ltd manufactures flexible packaging; plant at the workplace included the L2 lamination machine, which used rollers to bind products together to make items such as chip packets and plastic wrappings.

On 24 October 2017, an employee was cleaning the machine, according to the Safe Operating Procedure ('SOP'), which required him to use a foot pedal to inch the roller around before removing his foot from the foot pedal and approaching the rollers to wipe them with a cloth. On the day of the incident, the worker was controlling the movement of the rollers with his left foot as he leant into the machine to clean the rollers, contrary to the SOP. As he was in this position, his body weight caused his foot to press the foot pedal,  operating the rollers while he was wiping them. The employee’s right hand was dragged through the gap between the rollers, then trapping his arm. The emergency stop button was activated and he was freed from the machine. He suffered a hamate bone fracture in his right wrist. 

Whilst the L2 lamination machine was in operation, bodily access to the rollers was prevented by interlocked guarding, however, this was not the case when the machine was required to be cleaned, creating a risk of entrapment. The company could have eliminated this risk by installing light curtains on the roller chambers that would deactivate the rollers during cleaning operation if the light beams were broken. 

Amcor Flexibles pleaded guilty to breaching section 21(1) of the OHS Act and regulation 98 of the OHS Regulations, and was without conviction, fined $15,000 plus $8,897 in costs.

Furniture manufacturer convicted and fined after employee exposed to hazardous chemical

Sandford Furniture Pty Ltd, manufactures furniture, which includes painting wooden panels. 

In 2018, during a visit unprompted by incidents, a WorkSafe inspector noticed that an employee was spraying 2-pack paint (paint containing isocyanate hardener) in a well ventilated, covered by not enclosed, area outside the warehouse. He was wearing full personal protective equipment ('PPE'): gloves, overalls and mask. However the mask was of the half face, cartridge type, not the full face, air-fed type, as required for this kind of application.

The employee told the inspector that he:

  1. would spray only twice a week for short amount of times, and that he had done so for an extended period of time, thereby exposing him to the risk of inhaling isocyanates;
  2. had never been subject to medical examinations, thereby his health in respect of potential exposure to isocyanates was not monitored; and 
  3. had no training about hazardous substances / PPE.

Very fortunately for the worker, a few weeks after the visit, and before WorkSafe's investigation concluded, the worker underwent full medical examination and was given a clean bill of health.

Sandford pleaded guilty to three charges (under the OHS Act and Regulations) and was with conviction sentenced fined $12,500.

Relevant to finding the company guilty was the fact that in 2007, during an unrelated visit to the premises in Ringwood, a WorkSafe Inspector found that 2-pack type paint was being sprayed - and that workers were not supplied with adequate PPE, including full face air supplied masks. The painting was being done in a shed outside the warehouse, where workers wore half face cartridge masks only. At that time, the inspector issued a prohibition notice, which was then lifted when, through its director, the company undertook to outsource all jobs involving spray painting of isocyanates.

Obviously this did not happen, and the company continued to expose their workers to isocyanates. These chemicals  are powerful irritants to the mucous membranes of the eyes and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts. Direct skin contact can also cause marked inflammation. In addition to these effects, isocyanates can  sensitize workers, making them subject to severe asthma attacks if they are exposed again. Read more on Asthma and Dermatitis.

To check for any Victorian prosecutions before the next edition, go to WorkSafe Victoria's Prosecution Result Summaries and Enforceable Undertakings webpage. 

Victorian EPA fines bin hire company

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has fined a Campbellfield company over $8,000, for depositing mixed construction and demolition waste at a site in Preston that was not licensed to accept it. EPA officers inspected the premises and observed a Monash Bin Hire & Demolition Pty Ltd truck tipping a load of waste. 

EPA Northern Metropolitan Manager Jeremy Settle said that EPA officers are regularly out in the community conducting inspections, meaning that you could be caught at any time if you are doing the wrong thing.  “While the driver advised that the load was crushed rock, delivered to fill a hole, it was clear that it was mixed construction and demolition waste, as it contained bricks, concrete, tiles and plastic, among other things. Laboratory analysis of a sample collected from the waste also later showed that it contained asbestos,” Mr Settle said.

EPA is now preparing for new legislation to take effect in 2021, that will give it a stronger focus on prevention and substantially increase potential penalties. The legislation introduces a criminally enforceable General Environmental Duty, a responsibility for anyone whose activities may involve pollution to take reasonable steps to eliminate risk to human health and the environment. Read more: EPA Victoria

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