Packaging maker fined after worker sustains crush injury - 9.10.23

Plastic food packaging manufacturer SCS Packaging Pty Ltd has been fined $30,000 after a maintenance fitter’s hand was crushed in a machine in 2020. The Shepparton-based company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health. It was also ordered to pay costs of $3744.

In September 2020, a maintenance fitter was engaged to repair a thermoforming machine used to heat up and mould plastic sheets. After opening a sliding access panel the worker placed his right hand into the machine, where it was crushed by a moving part. The worker required surgery after sustaining two broken fingers, plus tendon and nerve damage.

A WorkSafe investigation found that an interlock guard installed on the machine’s access panel was not functioning and had been bypassed at the time of the incident. It was reasonably practicable for the company to ensure an isolation procedure, such as a ‘lock out, tag out’ system, was used when access to the danger area was required.

To manage risks when working with machinery, WorkSafe advises employers to identify hazards, assess the risks associated with them, and eliminate or control those risks by isolating them or using an alternative. Staff should also be trained in the safe operation of machines and equipment, with written procedures provided in the worker’s first language. Employers are also advised to develop and implement safe operating procedures in consultation with employees and health and safety representatives.

To further minimise risks, employers should ensure safety guards and gates are compliant and fixed to machines at all times, with signs placed on or near a machine to alert employees of the dangers of operating it. All machines and equipment should also be serviced and inspected regularly. WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said employers have a legal responsibility to identify and control the risks associated with the use of machinery.

“This awful incident would have been easily avoided if the company had communicated to workers the need to follow an isolation procedure. Guidance in relation to properly guarding machinery is widely available and WorkSafe won’t hesitate to prosecute employers who ignore it,” Beer said.