Farmer fined for safety breaches after worker’s arm amputated

A farmer from a small town in the Goldfield-Esperance region of Western Australia has been forced to pay $30 000 after a safety breach left a female worker with an amputated arm.

The incident occurred on the Munglinup farm in 2008, when the female worker was operating a grain roller mill driven by a power take off (PTO) unit attached to a tractor to distribute grain to feed bins.

The guard on the belt drive of the grain roller mill had been removed, and there was no guarding on the PTO drive unit, the drive coupling of the drive pulleys or the belt, according to WorkSafe WA.

The feed adjustment lever was located in a central position, meaning the operator had to lean over the top of the rotating drive line to adjust the feed flow rate.

The worker was aware that the guard had been removed from the mill, and during operation in February 2008, she reached over to adjust the flow rate control lever, which required considerable force.

Part of her jacket subsequently became entangled in the unguarded belt drive and she was dragged into the PTO drive unit, suffering multiple arm and leg injuries including traumatic amputation of her right arm.

John Bylsma, the operator of Minnikin Farm at Munglinup, plead guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment, causing serious harm to an employee when he fronted the Perth Magistrates Court last month.

He was fined $20 000 and ordered to pay $10 000 in costs over what WorkSafe WA says was a completely avoidable accident.

“This young woman was seriously and permanently injured because her employer failed to provide her with a safe working environment, contrary to his duty of care,” WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said.

“It is always disappointing when WorkSafe has to take prosecution action against an employer over a lack of guarding on machinery because guards should be one of the most basic safety measures taken in a workplace.

“Guarding of the moving parts of machinery is still one of the easiest and most obvious means of minimising the risk of injury to machinery operators, and I strongly urge employers in workplaces with machinery to ensure that it is safe to operate.

“A code of practice on safeguarding of machinery and plant is available, and should be obtained by employers and kept in all workplaces that contain machinery with hazardous moving parts.”

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