A building material manufacturer has been fined $215,000 after pleading guilty in the Ipswich Magistrates Court after a worker was crushed to death in a scissor hoist. The company was charged with having failed to meet its work health and safety duties.
The court heard that in May 2017, an experienced plant operator was found crushed in a raised scissor hoist which was part of an interleaver phaser machine (IPM). The IPM includes hoists, loaders, a guillotine, a gluing machine and scrap bins to process and configure fibre cement building products.
Although multiple barriers, including mesh, light curtains and interlocked gates were used to prevent human access to the IPM, there were points where workers could enter components without having isolated them. Although the defendant had taken significant steps in guarding the IPM, incorporating safety features and disciplining workers if they did not observe lock-out procedures, it did not address possible points workers could access the machine, accidentally or deliberately.
The company was fined $215,000 and ordered professional and court costs of almost $1,600. No conviction was recorded. The magistrate noted access to the hoist should not have been possible, viewing the matter as unique in that the defendant had taken considerable steps safeguarding the IPM.
The magistrate also noted that after the incident the defendant showed real remorse, including assisting and supporting the deceased's family, accepted its responsibility through its early plea and had rectified issues without delay.
However, the court heard the company could have:
- prevented operators accessing the hoist by affixed guarding or fencing, making bypassing the IPM's safety features difficult
- developed and implemented a procedure when the IPM processed larger fibre boards
- provided a hoist with a limit switch which worked consistently, eliminating the need for operators to use a board underneath pallets or adjustments which affected the operation of the limit switch and required an operator to enter the area of the hoist
- monitored the IPM's operation and supervising operators to prohibit misuse.
Since the incident, the company has implemented additional safety controls, including:
- modifying the limit switch to activate consistently
- installing grid mesh to prevent unauthorised access
- adjusting the light curtains to accommodate the extra width of the mesh which also de-energise the IPM's components
- adding an electrically interlocked gate which precludes worker interaction except when the isolation procedure is engaged.
Watch our short film on machinery guarding at worksafe.qld.gov.au.