Abattoir crush injuries prompt safety alert
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has issued a safety alert, following two incidents involving abattoir machines in which workers sustained crush injuries. In May 2023, a worker’s hand was injured while he was repairing a knocking box used to stun livestock. Early investigations indicate that his hand contacted the cradle and was partially amputated. In July 2023, another worker suffered a crush injury to her arm while working on a foot-operated de-nailing machine that removes the nails of the beast from the hock. It is unclear what the worker was doing when her arm was drawn between the rollers and crushed.
Fixed plant, including roller machines, conveyors and stun boxes, often have several moving parts. Hazards associated with fixed plant that can cause injury include rotating shafts, pulleys, gearing, cables, sprockets or chains. Crushing or shearing points such as roller feeds and conveyor feeds can also cause injuries, along with the unexpected movement of parts operated by hydraulic, electrical, electronic or remote-control systems. Workers operating, maintaining, fault diagnosing, repairing, installing, servicing and cleaning machines in all industry sectors have a higher risk of being injured or killed through inadvertent operation of machinery and equipment they are working in, on or around.
Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) are advised to use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in their place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability, to the lowest. PCBUs must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.
Unsafe use or exposure to unguarded moving parts of plant and machinery is dangerous and can lead to serious injury and death. PCBUs must eliminate the risks arising from plant in the workplace, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Higher order risk controls include designing plant or structures to be without risks to the health and safety of any person. Eliminating potential hazards at the design or planning stage of a product enables the incorporation of risk control measures that are compatible with the original design and function requirements.
Effective control measures for machinery are often made up of a combination of controls. Some common risk control measures include guarding — physical or other barriers that increase safety for operators and others involved in the normal operation, servicing and maintenance of machines. Types of guarding include a permanently fixed guard, an interlock guard, a fixed guard (which can only be altered or removed with a tool not normally available to the machine operator) and a presence-sensing system. Photoelectric light beams, laser scanners and foot pressure mats are examples of these types of guards.
PCBUs are also advised to provide suitable tools to prevent the need for workers to enter the danger zone for clearing blockages, and to implement lock-out remote controls to ensure they cannot be activated when the worker is in the danger zone.
Risks can be further minimised by implementing administrative and personal protective equipment (PPE) controls. Examples include implementing a lock-out and tag-out procedure to ensure the plant is isolated and de-energised from all energy sources prior to workers accessing any parts of the machine. This ensures the plant cannot be inadvertently re-energised or operated while workers are clearing blockages, performing maintenance or doing cleaning work.
Risks can also be eliminated by providing information, training or instruction to workers that is suitable, adequate and readily understandable. This includes safe work procedures with instructions on the correct use of guarding, and how to safely access, operate and maintain the plant. Employers must also ensure that workers who operate and perform work on plant are competent and suitably supervised during training.
All operating manuals and instructional material must be retained and followed, with plant to be inspected in accordance with a regular maintenance system to identify deficiencies in plant, the adverse effects of changes in processes or materials associated with the plant, and inadequacies in control measures that have been previously implemented. Gloves (if appropriate for the task), protective footwear, eye protection and hearing protection can also be used to eliminate or reduce the risks of working with plant.
The control measures put in place should be regularly reviewed to ensure they are effective. If the control measure is not working effectively, it must be revised to ensure it is effective in controlling the risk.
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