Dairy company fined $50,000 after amputations

A cheese processing and packaging business has been fined $50,000 after two workers were injured by the same machine in separate incidents at a Heidelberg West factory in 2019.
News article published

Tuesday 21 Jun 2022

Industries and topics
  • Manufacturing
  • Plant hazards
  • Food and beverage production

Australian Dairy Packaging Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in Heidelberg Magistrates' Court on Friday to two charges of failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment.

The company was, without conviction, fined $25,000 for failing to provide and maintain plant that was safe and without risks to health and $25,000 for failing to provide a safe system of work.

It was also ordered to pay $3,131 in costs.

In March 2019, a worker was operating a machine known as the ribbon blender, in which cheese products were blended by two spiral blades inside a hopper.

The worker had reached inside the blender's discharge chute to clear a blockage when the revolving blades amputated one of his fingers and severely injured another.

He spent two months in hospital and underwent three operations to reattach the fingers.

Following the incident, Australian Dairy Packaging complied with an improvement notice requiring the company to ensure appropriate guarding was used to prevent access to the ribbon blender's danger area.

Two months later, another worker lost multiple fingers when she reached inside the discharge chute opening while the blender was running and after the new guarding had been removed so the machine could be cleaned.

The court heard it was reasonably practicable for the company to implement a lock out and tag out procedure to prevent the machine being switched on during cleaning.

WorkSafe Acting Executive Director Health and Safety Adam Watson said in both incidents, much more should have been done to control the risks posed by the machine.

"Having two severe incidents on the same machine over such a short time frame is a clear sign this company wasn't taking the health and safety of its workers seriously enough," Mr Watson said.

"Sadly as a result, two workers are now dealing with life-changing injuries that could have easily been prevented."

To manage risks when working with machinery 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.