Timber company fined after worker's death

A timber processor has been convicted and fined $350,000 after a worker died when he became entangled in a conveyor belt drive shaft at a Benalla timber mill in May 2018.


D&R Henderson Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court today after pleading guilty to two charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing, so far as reasonably practicable, to provide and maintain a safe workplace.

The company was fined $275,000 for failing to maintain systems of work that were safe and without risks to health and $75,000 for failing to provide information, instruction and training to enable workers to perform their work safely and without risks to health.

The court heard the worker was unloading timber from conveyor belts when his clothes were caught on a pin protruding from the belts' rotating drive shaft and he was dragged into the plant and impaled on a nearby stillage.

A WorkSafe investigation found it was reasonably practicable for D&R Henderson to eliminate the risk to workers by fitting a cover over the drive shaft or repositioning it so workers could not come into contact with it.

Investigators also found that there was no safe system of work for realigning conveyor belts, with workers undertaking this task while the machine was powered, when it was reasonably practicable to first lock out the machine.

WorkSafe investigators found that it would have been reasonably practicable for the company to instruct employees about the risk of becoming entangled on the rotating shaft, where to position themselves to avoid this, and to contact a supervisor to arrange repairs if the belts came off the conveyors.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the risks of plant and moving machinery are well known as it is a major cause of workplace deaths and serious injury in Victoria.

"Employers and duty holders must do everything they can to eliminate or reduce the risks to workers from moving machinery, including guarding or physical separation and instructing workers in their safe operation," Dr Beer said.

"Tragically, in this case a worker has lost his life in an incident which could have been avoided had proper safety measures been in place."

"WorkSafe won’t hesitate to prosecute duty holders who fail to provide and maintain a safe workplace."

Labour hire company Recruitment Select Pty Ltd, which provided the worker to D&R Henderson, was previously fined $50,000 over the incident after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work.

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.