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Meat processing company fined $10,000 over amputated finger

Thursday, 15 November, 2012 - 11:00
Industry news

A company in Western Australia has been fined $10,000 over an incident that resulted in the amputation of part of an employee’s finger.

In February 2010, a labourer at the company D’Orsogna was operating a mincing machine that had a hopper at the top into which meat was fed to be minced.

The labourer had placed 200kg of meat onto a lifting hoist, from which it was dropped into the hopper, a large metal chute that directs the meat into the mincers. He started the machine and climbed onto a stepladder beside the machine to check the levels of meat going down the hopper.

He noticed that the meat was only going half way down the hopper and was not reaching the mincing area, so he used his right hand to push the meat down. His right ring finger became stuck in the mincing area and he suffered injuries that required his finger to be amputated at the first knuckle.

After the incident, the employer removed the stepladder from use and installed a safety step to access the hopper which incorporates a safety switch that prevents the mincer from operating when someone is standing on the step.

D’Orsogna Limited pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment, and was fined in the Fremantle Magistrates Court.

The case was yet another disappointing example of failure to provide workers with adequate protection from the moving parts of machinery, according to WorkSafe WA acting executive director, Ian Munns.

“It’s disappointing that the message evidently still has not gotten through that it is never safe to allow the moving parts of machinery to remain operational when workers may have to make adjustments or perform maintenance,” he said.

“The court heard that it was reasonably practicable for the company to have either installed guards on the feed hopper of the mincer or installed a safety switch on the machine.”

“Subsequent to this incident, the employer installed a safe system of work for this mincer that cost less than $3000 – far less than the total $11,548 the company ended up paying in a fine and costs.”