Safety alert issued over abattoir machine crush injuries

Sunday, 3 September, 2023 - 12:30
Policy & legislation

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland recently issued a safety alert following an incident in which a worker’s hand was injured while he was repairing a knocking box (used to stun livestock).

Early investigations indicate his hand contacted the cradle and was partially amputated in the incident, which occurred in May this year.

In July 2023, another worker suffered a crush injury to her arm while working on a foot-operated de-nailing machine that removes the nails of the beast from the hock.

The regulator said it is unclear what the worker was doing when her arm was drawn between the rollers and crushed.

The safety alert said fixed plants, including roller machines, conveyors and stun boxes, often have several moving parts, and hazards associated with fixed plants that are likely to cause injury include:

  • Rotating shafts, pulleys, gearing, cables, sprockets or chains
  • Belt run-on points, chains or cables
  • Crushing or shearing points such as roller feeds and conveyor feeds
  • Machine components that process and handle materials or products (move, flatten, level, cut, grind, pulp, crush, break or pulverise)
  • unexpected movement of parts operated by hydraulic, electrical, electronic or remote-control systems.


Unsafe use or exposure to unguarded moving parts of plant and machinery is dangerous and can lead to serious injury and death, and the alert said higher-order risk controls include designing plants or structures to be without risks to the health and safety of any person. “Eliminating potential hazards at the design or planning stage of a product enables the incorporation of risk control measures that are compatible with the original design and function requirements,” the alert said.

Effective control measures for machinery are often made up of a combination of controls, and some common risk control measures can include but are not limited to the following examples:

  • Guarding – physical or other barriers that increase safety for operators and others involved in the normal operation, servicing, and maintenance of machines.
  • Providing suitable tools to prevent the need for workers to enter the danger zone to clear blockages
  • Locking out remote controls to ensure they cannot be activated when the worker is in the danger zone.


Risks can be further minimised by implementing administrative and personal protective equipment (PPE) controls. Examples include:

  • Implement a lock-out and tag-out procedure to ensure the plant is isolated and de-energised from all energy sources before workers access any parts of the machine. This ensures the plant cannot be inadvertently re-energised or operated while workers are clearing blockages, performing maintenance or cleaning work
  • Provide information, training or instruction to workers that is suitable, adequate and readily understandable.
  • Ensuring workers who operate and perform work on the plant are competent and suitably supervised during training
  • Retaining and following all operating manuals and instructional material provided by the manufacturer to correctly operate and maintain the plant
  • Consult with workers as early as possible when planning to introduce a new plant or change the way plant is used. Workers should be encouraged to report hazards and health and safety problems immediately so the risks can be managed
  • Inspecting plant in accordance with a regular maintenance system to identify:
    • Deficiencies in the plant such as wear and tear, corrosion and damaged parts
    • Adverse effects of changes in processes or materials associated with the plant
    • inadequacies in control measures that have been previously implemented.
  • gloves (if appropriate for the task), protective footwear, eye protection and hearing protection.