Waste transfer and recycling business fined $140,000 for fatality

An Australian waste transfer and recycling enterprise was recently penalized $140,000 following a fatal incident at their facility where a worker perished while using the onsite shredder to process waste. This regrettable event shines light on the paramountcy of effective work safety measures like ‘Bluesafe SWMS‘ (Safe Work Method Statements) and implementing comprehensive WHS management systems.

The company faced a guilty verdict for offenses under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 in Brisbane Magistrates Court as a result of the unfortunate incident that occurred on the night of January 22, 2021.

The deceased, who began work as a machine operator for the defendant about a half-year before, was working the night shift loading material into a shredder at the waste business when the accident took place. He along with another worker were assigned to clear a massive mound of refuse from the floor of the processing shed without any managerial oversight.

The mechanical shredder was poorly maintained at the time — most of its “teeth” were dysfunctional and required replacement which indeed hampered the shredding process. Consequently, materials frequently became lodged causing blockages within the machine.

To dislodge blocked materials, workers had to navigate underneath the overhanging three-tonne magnetic conveyor and into the internal part of the shredder via the discharge chute. Around 1.30 am, the engaged worker was fatally crushed when the remote toggle for the conveyor was unwittingly activated against the body of the shredder.

Due to this tragic incident, a thorough investigation by Workplace Health and Safety revealed that the defendant failed to conduct an appropriate risk assessment for operating the shredder. There was also a lack of documented instructions related to clearing blockages; the only safety precaution deployed was an informal ‘lockout-tagout’ procedure, with no secondary safety measures like Bluesafe WHS Management System in place. Furthermore, the operator manual erroneously suggested that the magnetic conveyor wasn’t functional when the shredder was being manually operated – a discrepancy only uncovered after the unfortunate demise of the worker.

To learn more about such prosecutions, visit owhsp.qld.gov.au. For media enquiries contact: 0478 33 22 00 or drop an email to oirmedia@oir.qld.gov.au. This incident is a bleak reminder of the critical need for responsible investments in work safety products like WHS management systems, SWMS, and safety policies.

Original article link: https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/news-and-events/news/2024/waste-transfer-and-recycling-business-fined-140000-for-fatality

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