SA: stock/pet food manufacturer fined $390,000 over worker death

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, 8 March, 2022 - 10:45
Incidents & prosecutions
South Australia

A Barossa Valley manufacturer of stock feed and pet food that failed to identify a hazard and ensure appropriate control measures were in place has been convicted and fined $390,000.

F Laucke Proprietary Limited pleaded guilty in the South Australian Employment Tribunal for breaches of section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA).

In October 2020, a worker suffered fatal injuries when he was crushed and asphyxiated by a pneumatic slide-gate within a pellet press.

While risk assessments on the pellet press were undertaken in 2010 and 2019, both failed to identify the risks relating to the pneumatic slide-gate.

On the day of his death, the worker attempted to clean a build-up of product at the bottom of the pellet press’s surge bin. The worker was able to access the interior of the surge bin via an access hatch, which was not interlocked, allowing the slide gate to activate and cause fatal injuries.

SafeWork SA’s investigation identified that a risk of injury was foreseeable, and the incident could have been avoided had the company adequately identified and assessed the risks to workers when performing cleaning duties on the pellet press.

F Laucke Proprietary Limited failed to provide and maintain, so far as was reasonably practicable:

  • a safe work environment as it was possible for a worker to access the inside of the surge bin while the pneumatic slide-gate was operational
  • a safe system of work for the task, as they did not perform an adequate hazard identification and risk assessment process which properly identified and assessed the above-mentioned risk.

The SAET convicted F Laucke Proprietary Limited and imposed a fine of $650,000 (reduced to $390,000 after discount for early guilty plea) plus legal fees.

“This incident is an example of where inadequate risk management, particularly when it concerns machinery, has led to the unnecessary death of a worker,” said SafeWork SA executive director, Martyn Campbell.

“It is not enough to just conduct a hazard identification and risk assessment on the normal operation of the machinery itself; assessments and control measures must also be made in relation to the specific tasks associated with the machinery.”