Tuna processor fined after two injuries from same machine


A major regional seafood processor has been convicted and fined more than $50,000 by the Industrial Court today after two workers were injured on the same machine less than a month apart.

Port Lincoln Tuna Processors Pty Ltd (PLTP) received its penalty today after earlier pleading guilty to two breaches of section 19(1) of the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986 in that it failed to ensure the safety of its employees.

SafeWork SA prosecuted after investigating two incidents at the factory in early 2009. On the 23rd of January, a male employee suffered deep lacerations to his right index finger while attempting to clear a blockage of cardboard in a caser  machine, which seals cardboard boxes.

On the 11th of February, a female employee suffered a serious hand injury when trapped by moving parts in the same unguarded opening of the same machine.

The male worker recovered from his injuries quickly, and but the female worker sustained serious bone, nerve and tendon damage, that left her right hand permanently impaired.

While SafeWork SA was only notified of the second incident, it extended its inquiries when advised of the first. The court was told that the company’s internal investigation of the first injury failed to correctly identify the cause. SafeWork SA’s  investigation revealed a number of critical safety deficiencies:

  • The guard to the opening of the machine was missing.
  • No relevant Safe Operating Procedure was written to explain how to manage the hazard.
  • The emergency stop button was inaccessible to the second employee who was trapped.

Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke described the company’s initial investigation as “incompetent” and “an aggravating feature” of the second offence:

“…PLTP (failed) to respond appropriately to its offence and by changing nothing, contributed to the second offence and a worse injury… PLTP’s main challenge now is to ensure that actual work practices continue to conform with the new written safety instructions.”

Magistrate Lieschke noted the company had two prior breaches under the Act, exposing it to a higher potential maximum penalty. He fined the company $25,500 for the first offence and $32,300 for the second, after discounts of 15% for the early guilty pleas, cooperation, and remedial action.

SafeWork SA Acting Executive Director, Bryan Russell says the case highlights the risks of an incomplete approach to workplace safety.

“One mistake or omission led to another and another; and in the end two workers paid a heavy price.

“Unguarded openings on machines present clear and obvious risks of harm that should always be identified and managed through a rigorous hazard identification and risk analysis.

“Magistrate Lieschke has spoken before on the need for clear written instructions concerning the use of machinery in the workplace, saying that these set out a consistent procedure and are in the nature of a rule.

“Finally we must emphasise that a business’s internal investigation into a safety incident must be conducted thoroughly in order for the maximum benefit to be gained.”

From SafeWork SA.

Author: Department of Commerce, WA

Tags: User:Teacher;User:Student;Manufacturing;Using machinery;Causes of OHS incidents;News items