Bottling company fined $120,000 for safety breaches

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Tuesday, 7 June, 2022 - 12:45
Incidents & prosecutions
South Australia

A wine bottling company in South Australia has been convicted and fined $120,000 for operating an electrically unsafe bottling plant, exposing their employees to the risk of injury or death, and then continuing to operate the unsafe machinery after SafeWork SA issued a prohibition notice on the machine to prevent its use.

Infuse Bottling Company was sentenced in the South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) after being found guilty of failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers and failing to comply with a prohibition notice.

The bottling plant was purchased from a vendor in China who was required to install the plant to Australian Standards.

The vendor sent installers from China who did not have the correct trade qualifications and did not complete the installation to Australian Standards.

An independent electrical contractor conducting work on the premises observed that the cabling did not meet Australian Standards. The contractor brought this to the attention of the production manager.

It was recommended that a full audit of the QPM2 electrical wiring be carried out before the line was energised.

An audit report was provided to the company which identified the plant as being unsafe. On 26 February 2019, the electrical contractor locked out the electrical switch pad for the bottling line until the wiring could be brought up to Australian Standards.

Despite the lockout, the company continued to use the bottling line and exposed their employees to the risk of injury or death.

On 16 April 2019, SafeWork SA issued the company a prohibition notice on the bottling plant.

The company told a SafeWork SA inspector that it had spoken to the installers about the electrical concerns and had been assured that the bottling line was safe to operate.

The bottling line had been used extensively between the lockout on 26 February 2019 and the issuing of the prohibition notice on 16 April 2019.

Despite the bottling line being subject to a prohibition notice, Infuse Bottling Company continued to use it.

The SAET convicted Infuse Bottling Company and imposed fines of $135,000, $10,000 and $50,000. This was reduced to a total of $136,500 after a 30 per cent discount for an early guilty plea plus legal costs. The Magistrate further reduced the fine to $120,000 plus legal costs due to financial hardship.

SafeWork SA accepted an enforceable undertaking in October 2021 with Xiaolie Hu, the officer at Infuse Bottling Company, who was issued the Prohibition Notice.

“This case is a clear example of a PCBU’s disregard to the safety of their workers, despite being made aware of the risks associated with the bottling plant, both from an independent contractor and by our inspectors who prohibited its use,” said SafeWork SA executive director Martyn Campbell.

“The risks created by the company put their workers’ lives in danger. It is fortunate that nobody was injured in this case.”