SA: safety alert issued over isolation of power to plant

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, 9 May, 2023 - 12:15
Policy & legislation
South Australia

SafeWork SA recently issued a safety alert, warning businesses about the danger of energised machinery after a worker was seriously injured last month.

The worker entered a product tank, via a hatch, to conduct routine cleaning on 17 April 2023.

At the base of the tank was a rotating auger used to transfer product from the tank to another part of the factory.

The worker’s leg became trapped in the auger, resulting in his right leg being amputated below the knee as a direct result of the incident.

While the circumstances and findings of this incident are not finalised, the alert said those responsible for plant and equipment should ensure all hazards are identified, assessed and adequately controlled to prevent injury. Maintenance, cleaning, repair and or construction may be required, and appropriate control measures should be put in place.

Rotating augers, shafts, chains and sprockets are common components of plant and equipment that can cause serious injuries or death to workers and others who become entangled in the moving parts.

Before such work commences, the plant should be stopped, appropriately isolated/locked and appropriately tagged. Any stored energy should also be dissipated.

Examples of energy sources include electricity, hydraulic pressure, compressed air or gas, gravity, kinetic spring tension and moving parts.

Separate controls away from the worker or immediate work area must also be isolated/locked and appropriately tagged.

According to the alert, the following control measures are to be put in place:

  • Ensure a safe system of work is developed, in consultation with workers, to ensure that all power, being electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, kinetic and gravity is isolated (locked-out) prior to, and during, work being carried out on plant or machinery.
  • Ensure all relevant plant has mechanisms (locks/clasps) in place which allow power to be isolated by way of a suitable locking device that cannot be overridden.
  • Ensure training is provided to all workers and/or contractors in the location of isolation points and the process on how to lock out/tag-out the plant.