A North Queensland pie company has been fined $55,000 after a worker suffered multiple fractures to his left arm while cleaning a tension roller on a conveyor belt, used to move frozen product from the freezer to the packing room at the workplace.
The company was sentenced in the Townsville Magistrates Court on 18 December 2023, after pleading guilty to failing to meet its health and safety duties to workers.
The magistrate found there was no risk assessment completed by the defendant in relation to operating or cleaning the conveyor belt, which had been replaced in such a way that it created an unguarded nip point between the roller and the belt.
The daily task of cleaning the conveyor belt occurred while it was still operating, creating a risk to workers’ safety, particularly if they became entangled in its moving parts.
On 23 October 2020, a worker was using a scraper to clean product from the tension roller on the underside of the conveyor. The worker was crouched under the conveyor belt while it was operating, and his sleeve got caught, pulling his arm into the machine. He was trapped for more than one hour and suffered multiple fractures to his arm, requiring surgery. He was unable to work for several months.
In sentencing, his Honour considered the offending was serious, the risk was obvious and that it was not a case of inadequate measures, but rather that they were non-existent, particularly that there had been no risk assessment performed and no safe work procedure put in place.
He found the risks could have been easily overcome by low-cost measures which were subsequently developed within three days.
However, the magistrate said there were substantial mitigating factors including an early guilty plea which demonstrated remorse by the company. He also noted the defendant had taken significant steps to improve safety since the incident and was a good corporate citizen engaging with the local community through large donations to Foodbank and sponsorship of a local AFL club.
His Honour fined the defendant $55,000 and exercised his discretion to not record a conviction. Costs of $1,601.40 were also ordered.
Read more prosecutions at owhsp.qld.gov.au
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