A mushroom farm at Oakville in Sydney’s north-west has been fined $165,000 after a cleaner’s arm was amputated in 2014.

On 9 September 2014, a 76-year-old maintenance worker was undertaking maintenance work on a conveyor at the mushroom farm on Oakville Road, Oakville when a piece of rubbish became lodged between the tail-end pulley and conveyor belt. While attempting to remove the rubbish, the worker’s shirt sleeve became caught and he suffered a serious injury to his right arm which later required amputation.

The employer, Hills Mushrooms Pty Ltd, was charged under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to comply with its duty under section 19(1) of the Act and convicted in the District Court with a fine of $165,000.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said the incident could have been prevented if the business had implemented a simple safety system.

“SafeWork NSW’s investigation found that the business failed to take a number of actions which could have prevented the incident,” Mr Dunphy said.

“These include failing to install guarding to prevent access to the conveyor and nip points, failing to prohibit workers performing maintenance on the conveyor, failing to develop a ‘lock-out/tag-out’ procedure to isolate power to the conveyor during maintenance and failing to designate and train a worker who was responsible for operating the machine, ensuring guarding was installed and that lockout procedures were in place.

“Had they also installed guarding around the nip points of the conveyor and had a lock out system in place, the incident could have been prevented.”

Following the incident, the business took steps to prevent future incidents, including installing guarding, implementing a lock out and tag out procedure, improving training and supervision, modifying the layout of the plant, implementing exclusion zones, and installing limiting switches and residual current devices to electrical components.

“While these actions are to be commended, had they been in place before the incident, the worker would not have been injured,” Mr Dunphy said.

“This decision serves as a strong reminder to the mushroom farming industry that safe work systems must be in place.”

Mr Dunphy added that SafeWork NSW inspectors could help businesses in the mushroom farming industry to improve safety.

“Our inspectors can visit businesses and provide advice and assistance on work health and safety, including machine guarding as well as injury management and return to work.

“Additionally, rebates of up to $500 are available to small businesses for the purchase and installation of safety improvements through our Small Business Rebate Program. The Rebate can be used to purchase guarding that can prevent or reduce access to dangerous areas on a machine,” he said.

For further information on safety or for a free small business safety advisory visit, call 13 10 50, or visit www.workcover.nsw.gov.au.

Editor’s note: Hills Mushrooms no longer operates the farm at the site.

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