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Wholesale bakery fined $90,000 for breakdown of safety procedures

Date: 
Tuesday, 10 March, 2020 - 16:30
Category: 
Incidents & prosecutions
Location: 
Queensland

Darra wholesale baker Wild Breads has been sentenced and fined $90,000 in the Richlands Magistrates Court for breaches of Queensland’s WHS Act.

The breaches relate to an incident at its Kiln Street factory where a maintenance worker received serious crush injuries.

Wild Breads is a speciality wholesale bakery which employs more than 200 staff and operates two large scale commercial bakeries in Darra.

On 13 November 2017, two workers were removing a build-up of bread dough in the oven loader compartment of a production line at the Kiln Street factory. The oven loader was protected by an interlocked fenced enclosure.

A maintenance worker had earlier opened the interlocked door and didn’t properly isolate the oven loader.

He left to work elsewhere, while his colleague remained in the oven loader. A production worker then joined the second worker inside the oven loader and closed the interlocked gates.

The production worker reached through the mesh enclosure with his fingers and pressed a reset button which started the oven loader.

A sensor in the oven loader caused the delivery conveyor to move towards the two workers.

While the production worker managed to duck underneath the moving conveyor, the maintenance worker was crushed against the oven compartment.

He suffered serious permanent injuries to his heart, lungs and back. As a result, he requires assistance with daily functions such as dressing, toileting and showering, and also needs ongoing full-time care.

The oven loader compartment was installed and commissioned by the manufacturer after a plant hazard assessment.

Wild Breads put in place procedures to ensure the effective isolation of the oven loader compartment during operation.

It also addressed the risk of injury from the oven loader’s moving parts and the plant was effectively guarded.

However, the defendant failed to ensure isolation procedures during breakdowns were followed and there was no auditing of this. Tragically, the production worker had no isolation procedure training and spoke little English.

To prevent similar incidents, Wild Breads immediately modified the guarding on the oven loader compartment, installing an additional isolation point and keyed locks with restricted access.

Magistrate Stuart Shearer found the failure to ensure safety procedures were being complied with was a serious breach which resulted in a worker suffering very serious injuries.

He noted there was insufficient auditing or supervision of compliance and this missed an essential step in the process of operating machinery.

Magistrate Shearer accepted the company did its best when purchasing the plant to minimise risk.

However, the seriousness of the conduct had to be measured against the severe and life-changing outcome of the incident.

His Honour took into account Wild Breads was a good corporate citizen employing members of the local community.

However, he said this needed to be balanced against responsibilities to employees, especially those with limited English, and the need to keep workers safe.

In recording a conviction, Magistrate Shearer said the nature of the offence was relevant, there was no evidence of actual loss of income or other detriments from recording a conviction, and Wild Breads had two previous prosecutions for health and safety offences.