Fertiliser company fined $100,000 over worker death

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A garden fertiliser company has been fined $100,000 over the 2012 death of a labour hire worker at its Jandakot premises.

A Richards Pty Ltd – trading as Richgro Garden Products – pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing the death of a labour hire worker, and was fined in the Perth Magistrates Court on Monday.

In January 2008, Richgro installed an automated robot palletiser used to automatically stack bagged fertiliser onto a pallet.

The robot was surrounded by a 6ft-high steel mesh perimeter fence that Richgro had accepted the obligation to install.  The fence had two safe points of access into the robot’s operating area.

However, at the time of installing the fence, Richgro failed to install a panel of the fencing required by the design, which left a gap.

Approximately one year later, Richgro removed a fence panel from the perimeter fence surrounding the robot and installed a gate in its place.  However, Richgro failed to install an interlock on the gate.

As a result, workers were able to enter the robot’s operating area, exposing them to the hazard of being struck or pinned by the robot.

In August 2012, a robot operator was killed when he entered the operating area of the robot and was pinned against the conveyor coming out of the bag flattener.

The Magistrate found that the failure to install a fence panel that created the gap, along with the installation of the gate without an interlock safety device was reckless and that Richgro’s breach of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 resulted in the operator’s death.

WorkSafe WA Acting Executive Director Ian Munns said today the case illustrated the importance of guarding hazardous parts of machinery and having safe work procedures in place at all times.

“Many workers have been seriously injured or killed when equipment or machinery they were working on has been activated, so it’s absolutely crucial that safe systems of work are in place,” Mr Munns said.

“Subsequent to this incident, the employer installed an interlock on the access gate and a fence to guard the gap in the bag flattener area and added some further safety features to robot.

“This cost the employer a total of only around $3500, a relatively small price to pay to safeguard the lives of the company’s employees.  If the changes had been made earlier, the worker probably would not have lost his life.

“It seems that employers are just not getting the message that guarding is absolutely essential and that it is never safe to allow the moving parts of machinery – especially robot machinery – to remain unguarded.

“Guarding of the dangerous moving parts of machinery is such a basic and easy precaution to take, and it really is time for employers to take a good hard look at the guarding situation and stop exposing employees to the risk of injury.”

Further information on machinery guarding can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877 or on the website at www.worksafe.wa.gov.au.

Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)


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Media release
26 Nov 2014

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