Fatality from entanglement in plant

WorkSafe is issuing a safety alert about the risk of entanglement when using plant, following the death of a sole operator working with a drill press.



The operator of a powered drill press recently died when his clothing became caught up in plant. In two similar incidents in 2018, a 25 year old employee sustained fatal injuries when his clothing was caught in a conveyor belt, and a 24 year old labourer died when his clothes were entangled in a rotating roller.

Employees are at high risk of entanglement when working near powered plant with exposed rotating parts such as drills, power take-offs, lathes, augers and post hole diggers. Loose clothing, hair, personal protective equipment (eg gloves), jewellery, cleaning brushes, rags, bandages or rough material being fed into an item of plant can become entangled in moving parts of machines, pulling the person into the moving danger points.

This can result in serious injury such as scalping, amputation or de-gloving, or in death.

Safety issues

The risk of entanglement is significantly increased when the guarding on plant is broken, has been removed or is not adequately secured. Wearing loose clothing, hair, personal protective equipment or other accessories such as tool belts while operating machinery also increases the risk.

Recommended ways to control risks

The risk of entanglement should be controlled by:

  • where possible, substituting the machine with one which has a lower level of risk
  • ensuring guards are fitted to prevent access to any moving parts and nip points (points where rotating or reciprocating parts move toward each other)
  • fitting guards that cannot be removed, where reasonably practicable
  • installing interlocked guards which require a special tool to remove them
  • providing emergency stop systems to shut down operation of the machine
  • shutting down the machine and removing keys or using a lock out/tag out system prior to removing guarding to undertake maintenance and/or cleaning. Allow for stored energy and run down time before commencing such work
  • inspecting guards for damage and repairing and replacing all guards before re-energising and starting up the plant
  • ensuring employees do not have loose items of clothing, hair, jewellery or other accessories that may get caught
  • providing employees with adequate training and appropriate supervision prior to and when using the machine
  • providing and maintaining adequate warning signs as a constant reminder to employees of the potential hazards associated with the machine
  • keeping the work area clear of equipment, rubbish and other clutter.

For more information about controlling entanglement risks see the Plant compliance code.

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 the health of employees and independent contractors
  • provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
  • ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct

Employers and self-employed persons have additional duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 associated with the use of Plant, including:

  • identifying any hazards associated with the use of plant at the workplace, and
  • controlling risks in accordance with the plant hierarchy of control.

Employer duties also apply where some specific risk controls are used, for example, guarding. For more information on these duties see the Plant compliance code.

Related information