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Worker’s foot injured in auger incident

In October 2023, a worker sustained significant injuries to his foot when it became trapped in an auger. Initial enquiries found that the worker was clearing a blockage in a blasting cabinet return system (consisting of conveyors and an auger) when his foot came into contact with the auger.

Safety issues

Plant and machinery come in many different shapes and sizes including augers and conveyors. They pose significant risks to workers when moving parts are exposed, including:

  • Crushing or shearing points.
  • Rotating augers and shafts (including joints, couplings, shaft ends, and crank shafts), and drive mechanisms such as sprockets and gearing, friction rollers, cables, chains, clutches, cams, or fan blades.
  • Any machine component that processes materials by cutting, grinding, crushing, breaking or pulping/pulverising.

Workers performing tasks such as maintenance, repair, installation, service, and cleaning machines, are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed through inadvertent operation of machinery and equipment.

Ways to manage health and safety

Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, you'll need to show the regulator that you’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in your place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. It’s a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks. You must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.

Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents

Effective control measures for machinery (including augers) are often made up of a combination of controls. A guard is a physical barrier that can perform several functions including:

  • preventing contact with moving parts or controlling access to dangerous areas of plant
  • screening harmful emissions
  • minimising noise through applying sound-absorbing materials
  • preventing ejected parts or off-cuts from striking people.

If the guarding is removed for the purposes of maintenance or cleaning, it must be replaced before the plant is put back into normal operation. The machinery should not be able to restart unless the guarding is in place.

An isolation procedure should be followed when workers are required to perform tasks, (for example, when maintenance, repair, installation, or cleaning of plant activities are being undertaken). Isolation procedures involve isolating potentially hazardous energy, so the plant does not move or start up accidentally. Isolating plant may also ensure entry to a restricted area is controlled while the specific task is being carried out.

A lock-out process is the most effective isolation procedure:

  • Shut down the machinery and equipment.
  • Identify all energy sources and other hazards.
  • Identify all isolation points and isolate all energy sources.
  • Control or de-energise all stored energy.
  • Lock-out all isolation points and prevent movement of parts of the plant that could move or fall under gravity (e.g., by chocking or propping).
  • Tag machinery controls, energy sources and other hazards.
  • Test by ‘trying’ to reactivate the plant without exposing the tester or others to risk.

For the isolation procedure to be effective, identify all energy sources likely to activate the plant, or part of it, and isolate, de-energise, or control these to avoid the plant being inadvertently powered or movement. Energy sources include:

  • electricity (mains)
  • heat
  • stored energy from:
    • fluids or gases under pressure (e.g., water, air, steam, or hydraulic oil mechanical components like compressed springs).
    • gravity.

In order to isolate plant, you should use a device that effectively locks out the isolation points. These devices can include switches with built-in locks, or a designated lock-out point, and lock-out circuit breakers, fuses, and valves. Other devices include chains, safety lock-out jaws (also known as hasps) and safety padlocks.

When isolating an energy source, you should, where possible:

  • Use a lock that allows one or more padlocks to be fitted.
  • If more than one person is working on the plant at the same time, you should ensure each worker is able to attach a padlock to the device.
  • Another way to allow multiple locks to be used is to have one padlock on the isolation point, with the keys locked in a box that has been locked separately by each worker.

There should be no duplicate key for any lock, except a master key that is kept in a secure location - this should only be used in an emergency. If more than one energy source needs to be isolated to enable safe shut-down of the plant, the single key to each lock-out device should be held by the same person.

Tags should only be used as a means of providing information to others at the workplace. A tag should not be used on its own as an isolation device; only a lock is effective in isolating the energy source. Tags and locks should only be removed by the person who applied them or by the supervisor after consultation with the signatory of the tag.

In the event that the person who applied the tag is unavailable, their tag or lock may only be removed in accordance with a management approved procedure.

The control measures you put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.

More information

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