Worker injured after arms get trapped in pulling winch

Monday, 16 September, 2019

Worker injured after arms get trapped in pulling winch

A worker has suffered traumatic injuries to both arms after becoming trapped by a pulling winch used to pull and unload liners with compost from a shelf onto a conveyor at a vegetable farm. Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) Queensland is investigating the incident; however, early indications show the worker was carrying out a task when, for unknown reasons, one of his hands got trapped in the machine. His other hand became trapped while he was trying to free the first.

Working with fixed and mobile plants comes with significant risks, including death or serious injury, WHS Queensland warned. Hazards on agricultural plants and machinery include: rotating shafts, chains, drive belts, cables, pulleys or gears; the run-in points of belts, chains or cables; and machine components that move, mix, cut, grind, pulp, crush, break or pulverise materials. As a result, persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must ensure they provide and maintain safe plants, so far as reasonably practicable, and manage risks according to the hierarchy of control — as required by WHS laws — with risk elimination being the ultimate goal.

Where risk elimination is not reasonably practicable, PCBUs should substitute the plant, or hazardous parts of it, with a safer alternative or implement engineering controls such as a redesigned electrical system that allows for emergency stop buttons installation within easy reach of operators of rural plants where entanglement may occur. PCBUs could also separate the plant from workers either via distance or physical barrier. For example, a hook could be used to attach the liner to the winch drum so that workers do not have to reach into the hazardous area to check the liner is correctly attached while the machine is running, WHS Queensland suggested.

Any remaining risks should be managed using administrative controls, including carrying out an isolation and lock-out tag-out procedure before accessing any parts of the plant, WHS Queensland said. This could include: isolating the pulling winch from all energy sources that could cause harm, locking out all isolation points, dissipating or restraining any stored energy that may give rise to a hazard or providing workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as suitable clothing, protective eyewear and breathing protection. Control measures should be reviewed regularly through workplace inspections and consultation with workers to ensure they are working as planned. If any issues are identified, PCBUs should revisit the risk management process and make further decisions about control measures, WHS Queensland concluded.

Image credit: ©Андрей Яланский

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