George Weston fined $50 000 after worker’s hand crushed

One of Australia’s largest food manufacturers was convicted of failing to provide a safe plant and fined $50 000 this week, after a workers hand was caught in a machine.

The incident, at George Weston Foods’ Castlemaine smallgoods plant in Victoria, happened on 30 July 2010.

The female worker at the plant, which trades as Don KRC, was packing small frankfurts on a processing line when the plastic wrapping got stuck and required removal.

While the machine was switched off before the guarding was removed, as the woman was clearing the blockage, a colleague who was unaware what she was doing, switched the machine back on.

She suffered a crushed hand in the incident and severe burns.

Following an investigation, it was discovered that the company was aware the machine did not comply with Australian safety standards because it could fail to stop when the guarding was opened.

The company’s guilty plea, co-operation during the investigation and improvements to workplace safety following the incident, including changes to guarding on the machine concerned immediately after the incident, were commended by Magistrate Cottrell in the sentencing.

The company was also in the midst of examining several OHS issues across the site when the incident occurred.

WorkSafe Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture Director, Ross Pilkington, said the guarding on machines used in manufacturing is one of the most important aspects of safety.

“Appropriate guarding is one of the easiest steps that can be taken to ensure workers do not injure themselves,” he said.

“Equipment maintenance often comes at little to no cost and ensures workers get home safely at the end of the day.”

"This incident could have been easily prevented if there was an effective lockout-tag out (LOTO) system in place to effectively prevent the accidental starting of machinery."

“Businesses need to constantly look at ways they can make their workplaces as safe as possible.

“If there are instances where guarding is not doing its job, or machines can operate without it, employers need to fix this as a matter of urgency.

“Not doing so is just not worth it.”

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