Employee's arm severed during conveyor operation

WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about controlling the risks associated with operating conveyors used in mining and quarrying operations.
Safety alert published

Thursday 25 Mar 2021

Industries and topics
  • Mining and quarries
  • Plant hazards

Background

An employee seriously injured their arm while maintaining a mobile conveyor. The conveyor was operating at the time of the incident.

The conveyor did not have adequate guarding to prevent access to a dangerous drawing in 'nip point'. The employee placed their arm through an opening within the installed guarding in an attempt to align the conveyor's belt. The employee's arm became caught between the conveyor’s tail drum and belt. No emergency stop devices were within the employee's reach. Consequently, the conveyor continued to operate until a nearby employee isolated the plant. Unfortunately, the employee's arm required amputation during surgery.

Illustration shows example of modified guarding that does not prevent bodily access to danger areas of the conveyor during operation.

Image: Example of modified guarding that does not prevent bodily access to danger areas of the conveyor during operation.

Safety issues

Inadequate guarding that allows bodily access to hazardous areas of moving plant can pose a serious risk to the health and safety of employees and independent contractors. Hazards may include accessible draw in 'nip-points', impact or crushing zones, which may result in entanglement or crushing injuries.

There are also significant risks associated with failure to de-energise plant during maintenance activities and improper modification of plant guarding.

Recommended ways to control risks

To reduce the risk of mining and quarrying plant entanglement or entrapment, operators must:

  • perform a risk assessment to identify all hazards and assess the adequacy of available control measures on moving and rotating plant
  • ensure adequate guarding is installed on moving and rotating plant which pose a risk to employee health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable (for example, guarding to prevent contact with the belt and drum on a conveyor)
  • where plant must be operational during maintenance, ensure adjustment/service points are accessible from outside of the installed guarding, such as belt tensioning points
  • review the adequacy of plant guarding and, if necessary, revise the need for the use of such plant
  • ensure pre-task inspections of plant include checking for adequate guarding where applicable
  • ensure employees are provided with information, training and instruction about how to identify hazards associated with moving and rotating plant, and how to safely operate plant.

Mine and quarry operators should also consult with employees and include a broad range of expertise and personnel when developing risk assessment teams to ensure all aspects of risk are considered.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health
  • eliminate risks to health and safety. Where the risk cannot be eliminated, it must be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable
  • consult with employees when identifying or assessing hazards or risks and making decisions about risk control measures.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, employers must:

  • identifying all hazards associated with the use of plant at the workplace, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • control risks in accordance with the plant hierarchy of control.

In addition, mine operators must:

  • identify all mining hazards at the mine and assess associated risks, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • implement controls that eliminate risks associated with mining hazards or, if not reasonably practicable to do so, reduce the risks so far as is reasonably practicable
  • establish and implement a safety management system for the mine, which provides a comprehensive and integrated management system for all risk control measures implemented.

More information