Abattoir safety failings exposed in parallel prosecutions

Wednesday, 31 March, 2010

Two abattoirs and their contract cleaning companies have been pursued by WorkSafe Victoria after two cleaners suffered debilitating arm injuries in almost parallel circumstances.

WorkSafe has successfully prosecuted all four companies under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 for failings including inadequate staff training and unguarded machinery.

Ararat-based Ararat Abattoirs (Aust) was convicted and fined $20,000, and its service provider Western Contracting (Vic) convicted and fined $55,000, after a 2008 incident where a contract cleaner’s arm was caught in a conveyer as he reached in to retrieve a piece of meat.

This echoes the February prosecution of Warrnambool-based Midfield Meat and Hygiene Control, following a 2007 incident where a worker’s arm was dragged into an unguarded conveyer. Both companies were convicted - Hygiene Control was fined $25,000 and Midfield Meat $35,000.

The two cases identified similar failings by the companies.

Both cleaning contractor companies failed to provide training and instruction to staff on how to clean dangerous machinery and failed enforce procedures to ‘lock-out’ and ‘tag-out’ machines prior to cleaning.

Both abattoirs had guarding failures: Ararat Abattoirs’ viseration conveyor had removable guards which allowed access to the danger area of the conveyor; and there were small holes on each side of the unguarded Midfield Meat conveyer where cleaners could access hazardous moving parts with their hands.

“The similar failings showed the industry was continuing to make the same mistakes,” said WorkSafe Acting Executive Director for Health and Safety Stan Krpan. “The fact that we’re continuing to see these sorts of cases is not acceptable. Guards that can be removed, or that don’t prevent access to dangerous machinery, are useless. And not training staff to know that you need to make sure a machine is tagged as being ‘off’ before cleaning it is inexcusable.

“These prosecutions are a message to industry - that basic safety failings like we’ve seen in these two cases are indefensible. WorkSafe recognises this and so do the courts.”

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