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Enforceable undertaking to boost sugar industry safety

Work safety in the sugar industry, as well as men’s and community health projects, will get a major boost under a safety plan drawn up following a work incident at a Far North Queensland sugar mill.

An enforceable undertaking entered into by MSF Sugar will see funds provided for company-based and industry-wide work safety initiatives. Local Men’s Shed programs and a community cardiopulmonary resuscitation training scheme will also be supported.

The EU, between MSF and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, follows a July 2019 incident at the Gordonvale Sugar Mill where a worker was injured. The worker was attempting to clear a blockage by opening a flange when hot sand material began flowing onto him. He sustained burns to 25 per cent of his body and a secondary psychological condition of post-traumatic stress disorder.

It was alleged MSF failed to comply with its duty under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. However, the regulator may, as an alternative to prosecution, accept an EU which will deliver WHS benefits to workers, the industry and the community, that may not have been delivered if the matter were prosecuted.

The EU undertaking, with an estimated cost to MSF Sugar of $563,359, includes:

  • an acknowledgment and clear statement of the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged contravention and a statement of regret and assurance about future work health and safety behaviours
  • disseminating information about the EU to board members, executives, employees and contractors
  • automating the juice system at the mill which will reduce the requirement of operators to physically interact with plant and allow operators to control the process from an airconditioned control room
  • engaging a registered training organisation to deliver safety management training to MSF supervisors, senior executives and board members
  • engaging consultants to deliver due diligence training to MSF senior executives and board members, and to review work groups at the Mill and develop and deliver a customised manual handling training program
  • auditing MSF’s occupational health and safety management system. All audit reports, intended actions and actions implemented as a result of the audits, will be provided to the WHS regulator for compliance
  • preparing and delivering an industry presentation at an Australian Sugar Milling Council Safety Conference that will include lessons learnt from the incident, outcomes from the undertaking, legal liability, risk mitigation and legal compliance
  • providing safety and compliance presentations to businesses within MSF’s supply chain
  • hosting and facilitating a forum for the local North Queensland Institute of Sugar Mill Engineers to improve worker safety around plant design, installation and maintenance and to share lessons learnt from the incident and EU outcomes
  • engaging an RTO to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training, free of charge for those attending the training to a minimum value of $10,000, for up to 200 local community members within the areas that MSF operate the three sugar mills
  • donating $2,000 to five local Men’s Shed programs (total $10,000) to improve the health and wellbeing of members and reduce the number of men at risk from preventable health issues that may emanate from isolation
  • spending an additional $5,000 per year over three years (total $15,000) towards a television cane rail safety commercial to heighten community awareness and intervention for cane rail safety during the cane harvesting seasons.

More information

Read more about this and other enforceable undertakings.