Meat processor fined $90,000 after hand amputation

A meat processing company has been convicted and fined $90,000 after a worker’s hand was severed at its Brooklyn plant.

JBS Australia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing, so far as is reasonably practicable, to provide a safe working environment that was without risk to health.

The court heard the man was working on a production line to remove hides from sheep carcasses that had been missed by a machine known as the primary hide puller.

The incident occurred when a chain the worker had wrapped around his wrist became entangled with the back-up hide puller, which dragged him in and amputated his left wrist and hand.

The court heard that just before the incident the primary hide puller had missed a number of carcasses and there were hectic scenes as workers quickly attached chains or straps to the backup hide puller, while leaving the machine running.

According to the injured worker this was common practice when it was busy.

Following the incident JBS Australia decommissioned the back-up hide puller and invested in new machinery.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said there was no excuse for allowing workers to take unnecessary risks by using unsafe machinery or not powering down machinery when necessary.

“This worker suffered an horrific, life changing injury while operating hazardous machinery because a safe system of work was not in place,” Ms Nielsen said.

“Employers must ensure the safety of their workers is always their first priority.”

To manage risks employers should:

  • Identify hazards, assess the risks associated with them and eliminate or control those risks by isolating them or using an alternative.
  • Train staff in the safe operation of machines and equipment and provide written procedures in the worker’s first language
  • Develop safe operating procedures in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives.
  • Ensure safety guards and gates are compliant and fixed to machines at all times.
  • Regularly service and inspect machines and equipment.
  • Place signs on or near a machine to alert employees of the dangers of operating it.
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