Safety alert issued after abattoir worker sustains fatal knife injury

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.
Thursday, 24 June, 2021 - 12:30
Policy & legislation
Western Australia

WorkSafe WA recently issued a safety alert following an incident in which an abattoir worker sustained a fatal knife wound.

The worker was in a cattle head processing area when a spare hook fell from a processing rail holding the head and struck their knife.

The knife was propelled into the worker’s groin area and cut the femoral artery, and the worker was not wearing a stab-resistant apron at the time of the incident.

The alert said there were a number of contributing factors:

  • Risk of a potentially fatal knife injury posed by the work in the head processing area not identified by industry.
  • Spare hooks sitting on the processing rail in close proximity to the head being processed.
  • No mechanism in place to prevent hooks from disengaging from the processing rail.
  • No requirement to wear a stab-resistant apron to protect the body from knife wounds in the head processing area.

The safety alert subsequently recommended a number of required actions:

1. Assess the risks of working in the head processing area.
2. Ensure hooks and other equipment being utilised for head works are fit for purpose and appropriately secured.
3. Workers should wear stab-resistant aprons when there is a risk of a stab injury to the torso or mid-thigh. Aprons should be sufficiently long enough to provide adequate protection depending upon the nature of the work being undertaken.