In December 2019, a worker suffered serious injury when his arm was caught in a hopper. Early investigations indicate the open hopper contained metal shafts and stainless-steel rods that rotated to mix dough ingredients.
These findings are not yet confirmed and investigations are continuing into the exact cause.
Preventing a similar incident
Plant is a major cause of death and injury in our workplaces. There are significant risks associated with using plant and severe injuries can result from the unsafe use of plant including:
- limbs amputated by unguarded moving parts of machines
- limbs amputated by inadvertent activation of unguarded machinery
- electric shock from plant not adequately protected or isolated
Noodle making machines are used to mix dough ingredients prior to extraction through rollers to produce pastry and noodles. Plant with hoppers that feed into rotating machinery (such as screw conveyors, rollers and blades) can be found in a range of industries including; agriculture, manufacturing and construction. A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has duties under WHS legislation to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the provision and maintenance of safe plant.
The main hazards associated with noodle or dough mixer machines include:
- exposed hoppers that give access to moving parts of machinery such as rotating metal shafts and rods
- machine operation while covers or guarding are removed or opened
- no emergency stop device within the operator's reach to rapidly stop the machine in an emergency.
Before accessing the hopper or hazardous areas for inspection, maintenance, cleaning or repair, an isolation lockout tagout procedure should be carried out to isolate the plant and prevent inadvertent reactivation. The following is an overview of an effective isolation lockout tagout process:
- shutdown the machinery and equipment
- identify all energy sources and other hazards
- identify all isolation points
- isolate all energy sources
- de-energise all stored energies
- lockout all isolation points
- tag machinery controls, energy sources and other hazards
- test by 'trying' to reactivate the plant without exposing the tester or others to risk (failure to reactivate ensures that isolation procedures are effective, and all stored energies have been dissipated).
Restaurants, kitchens and workplaces that use these machines should ensure risk management is done, and safe systems of work are implemented for any plant or machinery before work commences. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who operate and manage the business or undertaking, including company officers.
Health and safety risks must be, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminated. However, if it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, then it should be minimised using the hierarchy of controls. This can be achieved by doing one or more of the following:
- Isolation - separate the hazardous plant from people e.g. by distance. If this control measure is not possible, the next steps can be considered.
- Engineering controls - modifications to the equipment for example, using machine guarding to prevent workers contacting moving parts. Examples of guarding include:
- a permanently fixed guard - if access to parts of the plant is not necessary during operation, maintenance or cleaning (for example, distance guards on a feed chute)
- an interlock guard - if access to an area is necessary during operation, maintenance or cleaning. An interlock guard is connected to the plant's operational controls so the plant cannot operate until the guard is closed. The guard should not be able to open or be removed until the moving parts (e.g. rotating metal shafts and rods) have stopped.
- a fixed guard, which can only be altered or removed using a tool that is not normally available to the operator.
Operator control devices should be designed:
- to be within easy access of the operator, easily able to be read and understood
- the desired effect can only occur by intentional operation of a control (for example provision of a starting control button)
- located outside danger zones and readily accessible for maintenance.
If any risk remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls, for example:
- providing workers with information, instruction, training and supervision
- using warning signs or labels
- providing a system to report faults to ensure maintenance of plant.
Administrative control measures rely on human behaviour and supervision, and used on their own, tend to be least effective in minimising risks.
Control measures put in place to protect health and safety should be regularly reviewed to make sure they are effective. If problems are found, go back through the risk management steps, review your information, and make further decisions about control measures.
From 1 July 2014 to 31 January 2020, WHSQ received 43 notifications relating to incidents involving 'cutting, slicing and mincing food preparation machinery'. Of these, 23 involved injury or illness requiring a person to have immediate treatment as an in-patient in a hospital.
At the same time, WHSQ received 202 notifications of events that involved plant guarding, or lack of it. Of these, 61 involved injury or illness requiring a person to have immediate treatment as an in-patient in hospital.
Prosecutions and compliance
In June 2019, a company was fined $90,000 when a young worker's left index and middle fingers were amputated. The young worker was removing hocks off pigs using a single-handed hock cutter at a meat processor when his fingers were trapped resulting in amputation.
In 2017, a company was fined $42,500 after a worker was injured cleaning a viscera table while it was operating with a high-pressure hose. During a final check of the work area, the worker found a piece of offcut under a table and attempted to remove it. He slipped and caught his arm in the machinery. It resulted in traumatic amputation of his hand and forearm, as well as broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder.
- How to manage work health and safety risks Code of Practice 2011 (PDF, 1.02 MB)
- Managing risks of plant in the workplace Code of Practice 2013 (PDF, 1.04 MB)
- Machine guarding - film
- Guide to machinery and equipment safety (PDF, 1.46 MB)
- AS4024.1 – 2014 series: Safety of Machinery