$275,000 fine for pipe manufacturer after worker's death

A concrete pipe manufacturing company has been convicted and fined $275,000 following the death of a worker at a Shepparton factory in 2018.
News article published

Thursday 10 Feb 2022

Industries and topics
  • Manufacturing
  • Plant hazards

Precast Civil Industries Pty Ltd, trading as MC Pipes, was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court today after earlier pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work, so far as was reasonably practicable.

The court heard that one of the pieces of machinery the company would use to manufacture concrete pipes was known as the red radial press, which was cleaned daily at the end of production.

Unlike other machinery at the factory, the red radial press had no self-cleaning apparatus, meaning workers were required to hammer hardened concrete residue off the rollers underneath the concrete feed conveyor.

In September 2018, the 25-year-old worker was undertaking this task when he made contact with the rollers, causing him to be drawn into the machine and crushed by the conveyor.

A WorkSafe investigation found there was no documented procedure in place for cleaning the conveyor rollers, and identified a number of measures that were reasonably practicable for the company to implement to reduce the risks of entanglement.

This included installing self-cleaning rollers; stopping employees from bypassing existing safety measures that would have turned the machine off; and ensuring the underside of the conveyor belt was reached by alternative means, such as a forklift and cage.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it was crucial duty holders ensure safe systems of work are in place.

"Employers must ensure they assess all the risks in their workplace and do everything reasonably practicable to protect their workers or WorkSafe will take enforcement action," Dr Beer said.

"In this tragic case, there were simple steps the employer could have taken to reduce the health and safety risk to their workers and ultimately prevent a senseless loss of life."

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 and implement 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.