Man trapped under bulk grain results in $135,000 fine

Sunday, 29 June, 2003


Quick thinking by workmates prevented a Graincorp employee from suffocating when he was sucked into wheat grain during the unloading of a silo at Gilgandra in May 2000.

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission in Court Session heard how colleagues placed a tube into the mouth of the trapped man to help him breathe during the five hour rescue operation.

The 25 year old worker was helping to move bulk grain from the 6500 tonne silo to a rail siding when the incident occurred.

Recent heavy rainfall in the area had caused the grain in the hopper to become wet and swollen, blocking the hopper and stopping the flow of wheat. The worker had entered the silo and stood on top of the grain to clear the blockage with a steel bar. However, the grain elevator was still running during this operation and as soon as the blockage was freed, gravity caused the grain to head towards the hopper, quickly entrapping the worker.

Justice Staunton noted that Graincorp had subsequently put in place active remedial steps to remove the risk. She said, however, that there was a need for specific deterrence in ensuring that training is received, understood and re-emphasised.

The silo operators, Graincorp Operations Limited, were fined $135,000 under Section 15(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1983.

WorkCover Acting General Manager Rob Seljak said the incident highlighted the inherently dangerous nature of grain loading.

"The risks of incidents such as these are easily identifiable and can be avoided. WorkCover cannot stress too strongly the need for appropriate risk assessment and safety training when working around silo operations," Seljak said.

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