A Plainland butcher and its managing director have been slapped with fines totalling $100,000 over a workplace incident in which a worker had his arm trapped in a bacon slicer.
Both pleaded guilty in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court to breaching Queensland’s work safety laws by exposing an individual to serious injury.
The court heard a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation found the 30-year-old bacon slicer had been purchased without a user or operational manual and there was a gap between the guard and the in-feed side of the machine containing the slicing blade.
There was no risk assessment completed on the operation of the machine and while there was a written work instruction completed, there was no instruction or procedure for how to safely operate the machine.
On 9 January 2020, a worker was using the bacon slicer when he placed meat on the carriage of the machine, put the guard down and turned it on to activate the arm to push the meat towards the in-feed section. As this occurred, he placed his arm in the gap between the guard and the in-feed section. Unfortunately, his forearm was caught and crushed by the arm of the machine.
He hit the emergency stop button but was unable to free his arm until 30 minutes later when a section of the machine was removed. The worker was transported to hospital where he was found to have severe arm fractures, undergoing nine surgeries and remaining in hospital for five weeks.
Acting Magistrate Roger Stark said the injuries from the machine, which had been used for two years prior to the incident, had had a significant impact on the worker, an impact that was ongoing and that had significantly changed his life.
Acting Magistrate Stark said the defendants were at fault for not identifying the risk and not conducting a risk assessment on the new plant regardless of how it was purchased. He held it was incumbent on them to undertake a risk assessment and obtain material in relation to the plant as identified in the Managing risks of plant in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB).
In mitigation, it was accepted the defendants had entered pleas of guilty, they cooperated with the WHSQ investigation and it was a family-owned business which had operated for a long time, and that this was the first offence.
The director was fined $15,000 plus court costs. The company’s fine was $85,000 and courts costs. No convictions were recorded.
More prosecutions are at www.owhsp.qld.gov.au