Worker fatally injured by conveyor belt on poultry farm

WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the risks associated with conveyer belts in workplaces.



An employee at a poultry farm was fatally injured after becoming entangled in a conveyor belt. The conveyor belt system was imported from overseas. The guarding was inadequate and did not to prevent access to a danger area.

Conveyor belt systems are used on poultry farms to transport eggs and manure waste. These systems can involve a complex network of belts, drive motors and rollers.

Safety Issues

There are many potential danger points or areas on a conveyor belt system. These include:

  • areas or points between moving parts, that represent a nip point or shear hazard
  • rotating parts, such as the end drum
  • parts with exposed projection, such as bolts and screws
  • hoppers and chutes. These may represent fall hazards, or contain other powered and hazardous components
  • loading, unloading and discharge points
  • openings in floors or walls. These may obscure the line of sight to work or people on the conveyor system, or create a crush or shear point

If these areas are not appropriately guarded a person can become entangled or be crushed. If a person becomes entangled on a conveyor system, they may not be able to break free.

Most conveyor belt systems used on poultry farms in Victoria are manufactured overseas and purchased directly from the manufacturer. International standards on plant guarding can vary greatly. Before imported conveyer belt systems are used it is important to ensure the guarding prevents access to danger areas.

There are also significant risks associated with the maintenance and cleaning of conveyer belt systems. When undertaking maintenance and cleaning, employees are likely to be in close proximity or make contact with danger areas. There is also a risk to an employee’s safety if these systems are not effectively isolated or de-energised.

Recommended ways to control risks

Employers must ensure that conveyor systems installed in the workplace are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. Recommended risk controls include:

  • guarding
  • operator controls
  • emergency stop devices


  • Ensure suitable guarding is installed on all danger points or areas of the conveyer belt system to prevent access.
  • If access to the danger point or area is not necessary during operation, maintenance or cleaning, the guarding must be a permanently fixed physical barrier.
  • If access to the danger point or area is necessary during operation, maintenance or cleaning, the guarding must be an interlocked physical barrier. The barrier needs to only allow access at times when that point or area does not present a risk and prevent access at all other times.
  • If it is not reasonably practicable to use a fixed or interlocked physical barrier, the guarding must only be able to be altered or removed using tools.

Operator controls for maintenance and cleaning

If the need for the conveyer belt system to be operated during maintenance or cleaning cannot be eliminated, the system must have operator controls that:

  • permit operation of the system while a person is undertaking the maintenance or cleaning; and
  • cannot be operated by any person other than the person who is carrying out the maintenance or cleaning; and
  • allow operation of the system in a way that controls any risk to safety so far as is reasonably practicable. For example:
    • adjustment or service points that are located at, and accessible from, outside of the installed guarding, such as belt tensioning points
    • hold-to-run controls that are enabled through the removal of the interlocked guards. These allow the conveyer to operate at a reduced speed

Emergency stop devices

  • Suitable emergency stop devices need to be fitted in appropriate locations.
  • Emergency stop devices need to be easy to access and activate in the event of an emergency, such as an entanglement.
  • Consider which type of emergency stop device will be easiest to use in your workplace. In some workplaces a lanyard or pull wire device may be easier than a push button device.
  • Emergency stop devices should have lockable isolation switches that are:
    • located or guarded to prevent unintentional activation
    • able to be locked into the "off" position to enable the disconnection of all motive power

Other risk control measures

  • Identify and control sources of potential stored energy prior to undertaking any maintenance or cleaning work.
  • Employees working near conveyor belt systems should not wear loose fitting clothing or jewelry which could become entangled in the system.
  • Lock-out tag-out (LOTO) procedures should be implemented and followed.
    • LOTO procedures need to include verifying the effectiveness of the lock-out prior to the commencement of work.
    • Any equipment needed for LOTO needs to be easily accessible for employees.
  • Ensure employees are provided with information, training and instruction about how to:
    • identify hazards associated with conveyer belt systems
    • safely operate the system during production, maintenance, and cleaning.

Legal Duties

Employers have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act). They 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 and maintain plant or systems work that are safe and without risk to health
  • consult with employees and health and safety representatives when identifying or assessing hazards or risks and making decisions about risk control measures

Employers must also provide employees and independent contractors 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.

Where plant, such as conveyer belt systems, is used in the workplace, employers also have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017. Employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • identify all hazards associated with the use of plant at the workplace
  • control risks in accordance with the plant hierarchy of control
  • ensure the plant is inspected to the extent necessary to ensure that risks associated with its use are regularly monitored

Further Information