Man killed by fall in grain carrier

A 50-year-old man died on Saturday when he fell into an empty grain bulk carrier in the Port of Newcastle.

The Hamilton man had been repairing metal inside the empty grain carrier when he fell a considerable distance from an elevated platform, according to Police Inspector Darryn Cox.

Ambulances arrived on the scene shortly after the fall, which occurred about 8:30am Saturday morning.

The man’s name has not yet been released and government authority and WorkCover representatives attended the scene over the weekend.

A spokesperson from the Newcastle Port Corporation said police inquiries are continuing and a report is being prepared for the coroner.

Calling time on alcohol taxation in Australia


Australia’s approach to alcohol taxation is riddled with inconsistencies:
  • Alcohol is a prime target for taxation. It’s a good source of government revenue 
  • it allows governments to recoup costs for providing services to drinkers (such as accident and emergency care and policing) 
  • it provides a mechanism for drinkers to pay for the harm they impose on others as a consequence of their drinking
  • it helps discourage excessive drinking due to information failure (not all drinkers are aware of all the risks of drinking and some harms are not yet understood) and drinkers’ tendency to discount the long-term harms of alcohol
  • and reduced consumption of alcohol has known public health benefits.

Moreover, a recent Australian review of the evidence clearly showed alcohol taxation is cost-effective.

Given the utility and cost-effectiveness of alcohol taxation, the challenge is to identify an optimally efficient tax system: one that maximises the potential benefits of restrained alcohol consumption for the least amount of cost to those who don’t consume alcohol to excess.

If an economist was asked to design the least efficient alcohol taxation system imaginable, it would more or less approximate the current Australian system.

It would be blatantly unfair to lay the blame for this situation at the feet of any particular Commonwealth government.

The current system is, ahem, a cocktail of mixed methodologies, ideologies, idiosyncrasies and the remnant battle-lines of long-forgotten policy negotiations.

Essentially, alcohol can be taxed as either a fixed amount per volume of alcohol (a fixed rate of tax per standard drink) or as a proportion of the wholesale price.

Australia has both at the same time. Wine is taxed as a proportion of the wholesale price (called the wine equalisation tax), which means the tax applied to cask wine (around 60 cents per litre) is much lower than bottled wine (around $2.60 per litre) because it has a lower wholesale price.

All other types of alcohol products are taxed as a fixed amount per standard drink, although the fixed rate varies, not only between different types of beverages (beer and spirits, for example) but also between different types of containers (such as kegs and stubbies).

In other words, you pay between 5 cents and nearly $1 in tax on your alcohol, depending on whether you buy draught beer, bottled beer, mid or high-strength beer, cheap wine, expensive wine, cider, straight spirits, pre-mixed spirits or brandy.

Although tinkering with the current alcohol tax system is tempting – because it is easier to negotiate amendments than an overhaul – perhaps it is time to draw breath and go for broke: take the lead from Apple’s army of geeks and scrap the current operating system in favour of a new, more efficient one.

What might this look like?

Let’s go back to our definition of optimal efficiency: maximise the benefits (in other words, reduce harms) and minimise the impact on those who don’t drink to excess.

Since alcohol harm is not beverage-specific (drinking too much is drinking too much), the most efficient method is to tax the alcohol, not the beverage type or its price.

That would remove perverse incentives that currently distort drinkers’ choices between beverage types and would optimise the compensation paid by drinkers for increasing risks of harm and government costs, and reducing public health.

Taxing the alcohol content, known as a volumetric tax, requires a decision about the appropriate rate of tax per unit of alcohol and moving to this system will inevitably create winners and losers (essentially wine and beer would be relatively more expensive, while spirits would be relatively cheaper), but the principle is infinitely closer to optimal efficiency than is currently the case.

Our modelling shows a volumetric tax would deliver both significant health gains and increased taxation revenue, compared to the existing taxation system.

However, a volumetric tax is not the only price control mechanism that could sensibly be utilised, for two reasons.

First, although drinkers are sensitive to changes in alcohol prices, they are relatively price inelastic (that is, demand remains relatively strong despite price rises), which means there is a limit to how high the volumetric tax could be set before it unfairly impacts on relatively light drinkers.

Second, there is more than one type of harmful alcohol consumption: drinking too much on average; and drinking too much on one occasion (getting drunk).

Our modelling suggests that in response to a price increase, Australians will increase the number of days on which they do not drink at all (and reduce the number of days on which they only drink a bit) in order to preserve their financial ability to drink more heavily on the weekend.

This suggests some people just like to get drunk, and you can do that quite a few times and still work out that the most financially savvy way to get drunk is to drink the cheapest alcohol.

A volumetric tax would help inhibit such drinking but could be reinforced by complementary pricing controls, such as a minimum retail price (or floor price). Scotland and England have indicated they will introduce this strategy in 2012.

Unlike the current situation, this mix of price control strategies is not attempting to idiosyncratically amend one taxation system: it is a synthesis of two separate and equitable approaches.

A volumetric tax would effectively transfer funds to the government to compensate them for the cost of mopping up the harms from excessive drinking, while a floor price would inhibit the availability of cheap alcohol.

The practical difficulties of negotiating the introduction of a more optimal alcohol tax system are daunting and will require skilled politics, but it is time to untangle the mess.

And it seems fair that researchers advocating for change ought equally be accountable for measuring the impact of a more optimal alcohol tax system.

To paraphrase Dostoevsky: drinkers, politicians and researchers are all responsible for all.

Anthony Shakeshaft is an Associate Professor at National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

 

Josh Byrnes is a research fellow in health economics at Griffith University.

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Supermarket price wars are killing drivers: transport union

The supermarket price wars are claiming more victims than just food manufacturing facilities, with accusations from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) that the pressure is forcing truck drivers to drive unsafely, leading to road deaths.

TWU federal president Tony Sheldon told ABC News that the tight deadlines forced on drivers are unrealistic and forcing them to drive unsafely.

"The union is saying very clearly to Coles and the other retailers that [their] practices have to change, that they are literally killing people on our roads because of the economic pressure," he said.

"What happens with Coles and other major retailers with dominating the market at 32 per cent of road transport tasks, is that they say to manufacturers, they say to farmers and they say to transport operators that you've got to do this work the cheapest and the fastest way you possibly can.

"They're price takers, which means the trucking industry either makes the decision to do the work or they don't have a job."

In a bid to shine some light on the dangerous impacts of the major supermarkets on drivers, the union will begin a series of supermarket protests in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth today.

He said the larger transport industry is being impacted by the behaviour of the major supermarkets.

"When the two big gorillas make a decision, and particularly with the aggression of Coles, it means a knock-on effect occurs right across the market, right across industries above and beyond retail," he said.

Is Coles the ringleader?

It’s not the first time Coles has been identified as the main instigator of the anti-competitive and bullying behaviours currently plaguing the food industry, with many in the sector believing Woolworths simply has no choice but to match Coles’ prices and attitudes.

Last year, Coles was the first to drop the price of milk to $1 per litre in the now-infamous milk price wars, and earlier this year it slashed the price of produce in half.

The impact has significant flow-on effects for food manufacturers, growers and suppliers, who cannot maintain a business with prices so low.

Earlier this year national secretary for the food and confectionary division of the Australia Manufacturing Workers Union, Jennifer Dowell discussed the damage the supermarket price wars are doing to the Australian industry.

“The mistake that most people make in these Inquiries and things is that they look at Coles and Woollies as retailers, but they are food processors and they control the market,” she told Food Magazine.

“If a company like Nestle came out and said “we’re going to buy a stake in Coles, and dominate the shelves with our products,” there would be uproar, it would be a huge scandal, but when the supermarkets do it, it’s a non-issue.

“That just doesn’t make sense.”

Sheldon agrees, saying the systems in place to force drivers to arrive on time are unsafe and unfair.

"When you dominate the market to the degree they do, and have policies that actually say if you arrive outside a half-hour window you get fined; as an owner-driver or a transport company, if you come in within that half hour and we can't unload you, you could still waiting for a day for hours," he told the ABC.

"We've got plenty of examples of people having to stay a whole day or being called back the next day without any work, without appropriate breaks, and with fatigue and economic pressure that goes on the transport companies.

"[The policies] are a damnation of this industry and the retail industry – how it squeezes the road transport industry and leads to unsafe practices."

Speaking up is commercial suicide

The pressure Coles and Woolworths place on companies and workers are well-known in the industry, but almost all are too afraid to speak publically, for fear they will be pushed out of business for doing so.

A Senate Inquiry into the behaviours of the major supermarkets found people would only speak up on the basis of anonymity and most were still concerned that even under such conditions, they would be found out by the big two and punished.

But Australian Logistics Council chief executive Michael Kilgariff told the ABC the latest claims from the TWU need to be substantiated and he believes there is enough regulation in the industry.

"The Australian Logistics Council has a retail logistics supply chain code of practice which deals with these issues such as waiting times, and both the carriers and the supermarkets are very focused on making sure that we don't have these sorts of situations occurring,” he said.

"If Tony Sheldon and the TWU have any evidence that the law is actually being broken, then they have a legal responsibility to ensure that the authorities are aware of where this is occurring so that prosecutions can commence.

"The supermarkets are currently liable under chain of responsibility laws – as is everybody in the supply chain – for incidents that may occur anywhere else in the supply chain where it can be demonstrated that they somehow caused it to happen.

"[The] chain of responsibility… is about to become a national law from January 1, 2013, and so we're going to have a national focus on these issues, and again if the TWU knows that the law is being broken, then they have an obligation to ensure that the authorities are informed."

Coles denies claims

Coles and Woolworths both refused to speak to the ABC on the issue, but said in a statement that the claims are baseless and incorrect.

"We're disappointed the TWU continues to make unsubstantiated claims about our transport practices.

"We outsource our transport business to large and reputable providers, we take safe transport practices very seriously and in no way do our transport contracts force drivers into unsafe or illegal practices. 

"We require our transport providers to comply with all road safety laws and regulations and all our freight contracts include fatigue management programs.

"Contrary to the TWU's claims, Coles's delivery windows into our stores are two hours, which is aligned with retail industry practice, and there are no penalties for suppliers or carriers for missing a time slot into our [distribution centres] or stores. 

"Coles is a co-founder of and current signatory to the Australian Logistics Council's retail code of practice and takes chain of responsibility very seriously as being core to its operating practices".

The release of yesterday's Federal Budget didn't offer any immediate improvements for the industry either, with calls from the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) for a Supermarket Ombudsman ignored.

It  wanted the appointment of an Ombudsman, to oversee the anti-competitive and bullying behaviour of the major supermarkets to ensure a future for Australia’s food sector, to be included in the budget.

 

 

 

40 per cent of elderly Australians at risk of malnourishment

 

More than 40 per cent of older Australians living in community housing are “malnourished or at risk of malnourishment,” according to a new study.

The Melbourne-based report, published in the Dietitions Association of Australia’s journal, Nutrition and Dietetics, was the result of a three month study.

Community nurses in Victoria assessed the malnutrition of 235 clients aged 65 and older and found one in three were identified as being at risk of malnutrition, while eight per cent were classified malnourished.

Only 41 per cent were in a healthy weight range, with 40 per cent overweight or obese and nineteen per cent underweight.

The average age of the participant was 82, with a range from 65 to 100.

Most of them were living on a pension and had an annual income of less that $30 000.

They lived at home, either alone or with a spouse, or with other family.

While the federal government recently released a 10-year plan to improve aged care throughout the country, Dietitians Association of Australia chief executive Claire Hewat said more attention needs to be paid to older people living within the community.

There have long been calls for the aged pension to be increased, with both qualitative and quantitative data showing that it is almost impossible for an older person to cover expenses and properly feed and clothe themselves on the current amount.

Previous Australian research has also found one in three hospital patients and almost 70 per cent of residents in aged care facilities are malnourished, Hewat pointed out.

Accredited Practising Dietition and leader of the study, Georgie Rist, said malnourishment is particularly problematic for the elderly, and those with regular contact with older people need to be aware of the signs and impacts.

 “Malnutrition is linked with poorer health, meaning increased GP visits, more admissions to hospital and longer hospital stays, and early admission to nursing homes,” she said.

“Community nurses are ideally placed to pick-up nutrition issues in older people as they are at the forefront of client care in the home.”

Image: Getty Images

Coles fined $170 000 over worker fall

Coles has been fined $170,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs after a worker sustained injuries when she fell through a ceiling at a Manly store in 2007.

The worker climbed over a handrail to access promotional material being stored on a suspended plasterboard ceiling on 29 August 2007, according to WorkCover.

The plasterboard collapsed and she fell more than two metres to the floor below and had to be transferred to hospital to be treated for lacerations to her head, whiplash and bruising.

An investigation by WorkCover found the company knew that using the roof cavity for storage was dangerous, and it had built a railing and posted a warning sign, but management failed to undertake a risk assessment on the ability of the plasterboard to withstand any weight.

They also failed to adequately warn staff not to access the area or use it for storage.

Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty, and was convicted and fined $170,000 and required to pay WorkCover’s legal costs.

WorkCover’s General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division, John Watson, said a number of simple steps could have prevented the incident and as a national retailer, the company should have sufficient safety awareness and procedures.

“This business employs more 23,000 people in 238 stores across NSW, so the safety procedures of this company are relevant to a lot of people,” Watson said.

“This particular area should never have been allowed to be used to store merchandise and Coles management should have been more vigilant.

“While store management knew the area was not safe, the area was still used for storage and there was no proper information or training given to staff to warn of the risk.

“It is critically important that these types of hazards are identified at the workplace design stage and all reasonable and practicable steps be taken to eliminate the risk of work related injury or illness.

“Following this incident Coles has initiated a number of steps to eliminate re-occurrence, including a new plywood barrier to block off all access to the dangerous area and issuing a safety alert to staff,” Watson said.

“WorkCover is also pleased that this issue has also been addressed in the design of all new Coles stores.”

Aussie beef producers prepare for high demand following US mad cow disease outbreak

Indonesia has suspended some beef imports from the US following the detection of mad cow disease in California, and Australian producers are hoping to benefit from the incident with increased exports.

The Indonesian government confirmed it would be suspending US beef imports and two major South Korean retailers, Homeplus and Lotte Mart – immediately halted sales of the products as the news of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case broke.

Indonesia has suspended imports of boned meat and innards from US beef but boneless meat remains unaffected.

"We have decided to stop importing bone meal, innards and boned meat from the United States, but imports of boneless meat will continue," Indonesia’s deputy agriculture minister Rusman Heriawan said.

"The suspension starts today, but we don’t know how long it will remain in effect," he said, adding that shipments en route will not be affected.

Only a small amount of Indonesia’s beef imports come from the US, and most come from Australia and New Zealand.

Indonesia has suspended some beef imports from the US following the detection of mad cow disease in California, and Australian producers are hoping to benefit from the incident with increased exports.

However, the outbreak in 2006 was much larger than the latest one, which has only been detected in a single cow.

The US has proclaimed that the detection of the disease during routine inspections highlights an effective testing process, and no other animals have been found to have the disease.

But in the case of mad cow disease, many countries will exercise caution and halt imports until the storm passes.

Canada and Japan have said they will continue to import US beef and head of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association Luke Bowen told The ABC that while Australian producers are sympathetic to the American predicament, they also hope the outbreak will benefit them again as it did previously.

US beef exports dropped by almost $3 million following the first outbreak of mad cow disease in 2003.

"Certainly when the cases in early 2000 broke out in Canada and the US and in Europe there was a large void in those Japanese and Korean markets, which Australia was able to fill, and the Americans have only just started to claw back some of those gains that Australia made through that period," Bowen said.

"And we’ve also seen a free-trade agreement signed between America and Korea which has strengthened their trading position as well, so clearly the Americans would have a lot to lose if they were to lose access to those markets."

BSE is highly contagious between animals, and is thought to have caused over 200 human deaths worldwide.

Image: Department of Primary Industries

US mad cow disease discovery shows good systems in place: animal groups

The discovery of mad cow disease in the US is a positive occurrence, according to some animal groups.

The United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) believe that the find shows the country’s health monitoring system is working.

“This detection demonstrates that the national surveillance system is efficient,” the OIE said.

“This case should not have implications for the current U.S. risk categorization.”

This is the first detected case of mad cow disease in the US since a mass outbreak in 2006.

The first case was discovered in 2003, on an animal that came from Canada, and since then three other herds were found to be affected.
FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth said importers of US beef should be encouraged by the discovery of the disease before it entered the food chain.
“The fact that the U.S. picked it up before it entered the food chain and the fact that they were transparent should give more confidence to the trading partners, not less,” Lubroth said.
“However, I do see that sometimes countries take measures that are not based on science and that we do not support.”

Local authorities say the infected cow, from California, will not pose a threat to the nation’s food supply.

The tested positive during a routine check for the illness, or atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported.

The USDA’s chief veterinarian John Clifford said the disease didn’t enter the human food chain and has not been detected in any other animals.

USDA statements say steps taken by U.S. authorities in the case are in line with OIE standards.

“The fact that it was picked up before anything entered the food chain is significant,” Lubroth said. “It shows that the surveillance systems in place have done their job.”

About 40,000 cows are randomly tested each year in the US, which represents less than 0.1 percent of the entire number, and these regimes are not rigid enough to ensure diseased cows don’t get into the food supply, according to Michael Hansen, a staff scientist at Yonkers, New York-based advocacy group Consumers Union.

KFC chicken paralysed girl, court finds

A judge has ruled that fast food chain KFC is responsible for the brain damage of a young girl who was left paralysed by food poisoning.

In a judgement made on Saturday, Judge Stephen Rothman said Monika Samaan, who was seven years old when she got salmonella poisoning from chicken Twister wrap, was permanently disabled through negligence by KFC.

When she ate the food in October 2005, Samaan suffered salmonella encephalopathy, – a brain injury linked to food poisoning – and subsequently ended up with a blood infection and septic shock.

The girl suffered cognitive, motor and speech impairment, and went into a coma in hospital, which the family says is the direct result of the chicken chain’s actions.

They say several other family members also fell ill as a result of eating food from the Villawood KFC the same day.

The Supreme Court ruled in the family’s favour, after it concluded "a KFC Twister… consumed predominately by Monika and in lesser quantities by her family," made her ill.

According to Justice Rothman the chicken was contaminated "because of the failure of one or more employees of KFC" to follow preparation and handling rules.

He labelled the actions of these employees as "negligent,” but acknowledged they were not aware of how they could impact consumers.

"There is some evidence, which I accept, that some employees were unaware of the full consequences of a breakdown in the system that was to be implemented," Rothman said in his judgment.

"Nevertheless, the conduct of the employee was negligent and KFC, as the employer, is vicariously liable for the negligence."

Rothman referred to an assessment conducted at the premises prior to Samaan’s illness, which criticised the hygiene and food preparation standards, and testimonies by some staff members that they would throw food around as a joke, drop chicken on the ground and handle food without gloves on, in his findings.

"The evidence was consistent that the standards set by KFC were not met during the latter half of 2005," Rothman said.

"The contamination has occurred because of the failure of one or more employees of KFC to adhere to that procedure."

Compensation will be determined in a separate hearing, with Rothman saying the fallout from the food poisoning was “most rare.”

"She is now intellectually disabled, is unable to function independently, she needs total care and she will be unable to live a life filled with normal activities, relationships, milestones and achievements," he said.

"The plaintiff has been severely disabled at a very young age and as a result of her injuries, it is clear she will never enjoy the normal life that was expected of her prior to this catastrophic event."

KFC has confirmed it will appeal the decision.

"We believe the evidence showed KFC did not cause this tragedy and, after reviewing the judgment and seeking further advice from our lawyers, we have decided to appeal Justice Rothman’s decision," KFC Australia spokeswoman Sally Glover said.

"We feel deeply for Monika and the Samaan family however we also have a responsibility to defend KFC’s reputation as a provider of safe, high quality food."

Image: The Samaan family. Credits: Adam Ward, Herald Sun.

Asian farmers face slump in production

Agricultural production in Asia could be halved in the next three decades if farmers don’t adapt to climate change.

According to the Centre for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, unless farmers change their processes to deal with the changes to the environment, the output will be significantly impacted, the ABC reports.

A network of 15 agricultural research centres from across the world are working on developing new crops that can survive rising temperatures, acid and salinity, director of Agriculture, Climate Change and Food Security said.

He told the ABC that $450 million worth of crops were ruined by drought in 2010 and last year $40 billion in crops were lost to flooding.

The flooding began at the end of July last year, triggered by the landfall of Tropical Storm Nock-ten.

Rising waters soon inundated Northern, Northeastern and Central Thailand provinces along the Mekong and Chao Phraya river basins.

In October floodwaters reached the Chao Phraya and parts Bangkok were affected..

The flooding continued in some areas until January this year and 815 lives were lost as a result of the floods.

Of Thailand’s 77 provinces, 65 were declared flood disaster zones, and over 20 000 square kilometres of farmland was damaged.

"It’s very serious, because with each degree increase in temperature, rice yields are impacted, and therefore you’re getting lower production" he said.

Salinity is the major problem in places like Vietnam and many farmers are abandoning rice farming in favour of prawns.

Image: The 2011 Thailand floods. 

China’s Coca-Cola Shanxi denies workers’ claim of contaminated products

Chinese authorities have denied there are any problems with it’s locally-manufactured Coca-Cola Shanxi Beverages, after an employee claimed mass chlorine contamination.

An anonymous employee told local media on Tuesday that routine pipe maintenance work had resulted in nine batches of products becoming contaminated with chlorine.

Many retailers and individual consumers stopped buying the products as a result of the alleged contamination, leading Coca-Cola Shanxi to test the products in question.

According to the Shanxi Province Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision, 121 058 cases of the potentially contaminated beverages were produced between 4 February to 8 Fenruary.

Of these, more then 76 000 had been sold by Tuesday and the remainder are still in the company’s possession.

Tests of the products resulted in the Food Quality Safety Supervision Testing Institute of Shanxi Province and the Shanxi Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Technology Centre declaring the products safe to consume, despite chlorine being identified in the samples.

They maintain that chlorine levels in the drinks are less than purified drinking water and therefore safe to drink.

“Drinking small amounts of chloric beverages won’t hurt people, but large amounts can,” Fu Yingwen, director of the inspection and quarantine centre said.

Safety In Action now on in Melbourne

Safety in Action, Victoria’s largest dedicated trade show for the safety and materials handling industry is on now.

Held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, the event will cover the latest, most talked about topics in the industry.

Over 50 cutting-edge seminars on the industry’s hottest topics will be presented by industry leaders including Norton Rose, the National Safety Council of Australia, Noel Arnold & Associates, Safe Work Australia and many more.

See all the latest safety solutions in action on stage at the interactive live demonstration stage.

Ask questions and speak to the experts personally for a more interactive, hands on experience.

Get your free health check at the WorkSafe Australia stand (L02). It takes just 15 minutes, is free free, quick and confidential.

Discover hundreds of new and existing Australian manufacturers & suppliers and thousands of new products & solutions for your industry.

Plus there’s a chance to win a share in $1,000 worth of height safety prizes including audits, inspections, training and risk assessments, just by visiting Workplace Access & Safety at stands H26 or O13.

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.”

Driver, cattle die in truck crash

It’s been a horror 24 hours for animal transporters, with a driver and dozens of cattle dead following a crash in country New South Wales and pig carcasses spread across a Sydney highway causing traffic delays in two separate incidents.

Yesterday afternoon a B-double truck transporting more than 60 cattle crashed on the Oxley Highway near Tamworth, in the state’s New England Region.

According to local police, the vehicle rolled down an embankment, killing a number of animals and the driver, after he failed to negotiate a right-hand bend near Tangaratta Bridge.

In a separate incident, a number of pig carcasses were spread across the M7 westlink motorway in Sydney when two heavy vehicles collided about 2am this morning.

The accident caused the truck carrying the pig carcasses to roll, littering the road with the carcasses and causing delays through peak-hour this morning.

All north –bound lanes are closed and traffic wass being diverted from the M7 on to Joadia Road, to Hoxton Park Road and the ironically named Cowpasture Road.

One driver was taken to Liverpool Hospital with minor injuries.

Worker loses finger, food manufacturer fined $60 000

Food manufacturer Healthy Snacks Australia has been fined $60 000 after an employee had a finger partially severed by a machine.

The Australian food producer plead guilty in the Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court this week to one count of failing to provide a safe system of work and proper instruction, training and supervision.

The worker had crawled under a machine that was used to manufacture and pack health bars, to clean its rollers.

The court heard that crawling under the machine to remove the guarding was common practise in the factory.

During the time the worker was cleaning the machine, it would remain on so that the rollers could be cleaned.

But on 29 June 2010, when the worker was performing the task, the cloth she was using became stuck and as she tried to pull it out, her other hand, which was resting on the machine so she could balance herself, became stuck between the rollers.

The moving machinery severed part of her middle finger.

The investigation by WorkSafe determined that Healthy Snacks Australia failed to undertake any risk assessment associated with the use of the machine, or ensure employees did not clean the machine while it was operating and while it was possible to access dangerous moving parts.

It also found the company did not provide any standardised or consistent training and supervision to workers who cleaned the machine or provide employees with standard operating procedures, including cleaning procedures for the machine.

It received a $60 000 fine without conviction and was ordered to pay an additional $3430 in costs to WorkSafe.

WorkSafe’s Manufacturing, Logistics and Agriculture Acting Director, Mary Chojnacki said the company had failed to ensure some fundamental requirements.

“A serious injury and a $60,000 fine could have been prevented if appropriate steps were taken to adequately guard and supervise the machine while it was being cleaned, something that would have cost far less,” she said.

“If there are instances where machines can operate without guarding, employers need to fix this as a matter of urgency. Not doing so is just not worth it.”

“Despite the obvious risks it is unfortunately all too common for machines to be kept running while they’re being cleaned. Every time that happens, there is a risk of serious injury or death.”

“WorkSafe takes incidents like this seriously.

“In this case, the company was investigated and charged in just eight months.”

“This sends a strong message to all employers that safety must be a priority.

“The consequences can be not only immediate for the worker but for businesses, an unwanted court appearance and potential fine.”

“WorkSafe actively enforces the law. Since July last year, 79 prosecutions have commenced compared with 56 in the previous corresponding period.”

Last year WorkSafe’s Michael Birt told Food Magazine that the food industry is a major hotspot for injuries and accidents.

“The food manufacturing industry is one of the targeted industries in 2010, 11 and 12, because it isn’t getting there,” he said.

“We’re running a campaign this year targeting eight high risk industries, and food manufacturing is one of the eight, along with other related industries road ytansport and warehousing and storage.”

And just last month a spokesperson from WorkCover NSW told Food Magazine that the rates of incidents does not seem to be declining.

“Generally speaking often there is a reluctance from an organisation to want to engage with any regulators, whether its WorkCover or another food industry body,” the spokesperson said.
“But we strongly encourage companies to be proactive.
“We would much prefer they be proactive and talk to us so we can come out there and give our input.

“I know it is difficult and we are always working strongly to change the perspective of what we do and we are very keen to engage with industry.

“I think it’s a bit back to front.

“If an organisation could cause someone to be seriously injured or worse, killed, it is only in their best interest to talk to us and avoid any injuries and the costs and damage to reputation that would cause.

“It’s all about gaining competitive advantage these days between companies so people need to embrace safety and be proactive about it.”

SA grain mill up in flames

In the midst of some of the worst floods to hit Australia in over 50 years, a South Australian grain mill caught fire early this morning.

Fire crews had the blaze at the Lauckle Flour Mill in Freeling, about 60 kilometres north of Adelaide, under control by 4am this morning.

It is believed to have originally started at about 6pm last night.

Fire crews are still at five-storey grain silo checking for hot spots that could fuel another blaze.

It is believed to have been caused by grain at the bottom of the conveyor belt catching fire, and no injuries have been reported at this stage.

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