Manufacturing News

Conveyor belt accident costs companies $160,000

Two companies have been fined $160,000 after worker’s arm became trapped in a conveyor at a fertiliser factory.

Incitec Pivot and labour hire company Skilled Group both pleaded guilty at the Geelong Magistrates’ Court this week for not providing a safe workplace.

Incitec Pivot was fined $90,000 and Skilled Group was fined $70,000, Worksafe News reported.

Skilled sent its employee to the Incitec factory near Geelong in 2011 to monitor the conveyor belts carrying the fertiliser to assure it operated effectively.

But the worker was injured less than a month later when cleaning a build-up of fertiliser from a moving overhead conveyor belt using a shovel.

The shovel was caught and the worker’s arm and shoulder were pulled into the conveyor, trapping him for several minutes.

The incident left the worker with a permanent injury to his left shoulder and he was still recuperating nine months later, the court heard.

A WorkSafe enquiry discovered workers frequently chipped fertiliser off moving conveyors with shovels, crowbars and hammers.

The court was told it was needless for workers to chip off the fertiliser since that should have been done during production breaks while the conveyors were turned off.

But nobody informed the workers or oversaw them properly.

Skilled had not a clear idea of the nature of the work its employee would be doing at the factory and it had not ensured Incitec had provided him with sufficient training, the court heard.

It also heard Incitec operates under a ‘buddy system’ to train injured employees.

But one of the man’s ‘buddies’ also thought it was fine to chip fertiliser off a moving conveyor, while another had worked there for only two weeks.

“A buddy system only works if your buddy is telling you the right thing to do,” magistrate Ann McGarvie said in her sentencing.

“Here, that didn’t happen.”

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