This alert is about the dangers of hot liquid being suddenly released from an abattoir cooking machine used to process tripe.

We recently responded to an incident where a worker at a meat processing facility suffered serious burns after a mixture of hot water and offal product was suddenly expelled from a tripe cooking machine he was working next to.

Background

The worker was completing maintenance on nearby plant when the pneumatic product chute on the tripe machine opened. During normal operation, which is automated, liquid would first drain from the cooking machine prior to this opening, and the product would then discharge down the open chute to another machine. Following an investigation, it appears the drain had become blocked, causing a mixture of hot liquid and offal to spill over the product chute and onto the worker.

Contributing factors

The following factors contributed to the incident:

  • The worker had followed procedures for isolating the plant that he was working on, but this did not include isolating nearby plant.
  • Hazards resulting from the blockage of the drain were not considered when risk assessments and safe working procedures were developed.
  • The product chute was not fully guarded.

Action required

Persons conducting a business or undertaking that use plant must ensure that risks to the health and safety of workers and others due to the plant is minimised as much as is reasonably practicable. When identifying hazards, you should also consider proximity of the plant to workers and the potential for the unsafe release of energy stored within that plant – for example, due to heat or pressure in the event of plant failure.

Persons conducting a business or undertaking must also develop safe work methods in consultation with workers, and these safe work methods should consider any risks that arise from the plant in the vicinity of work being conducted.

Specific control measures

  • Persons conducting a business or undertaking that use tripe cooking machines should note the incident described above and revise their risk assessments and safe working procedures accordingly if the potential for similar incidents exists.
  • Consider guarding the product chute to prevent an overflow of discharged contents – see Figure 1, showing guarding that has been put in place following the incident. Note that where guarding is used, it should not introduce new hazards such as pinch points, sharp corners and edges, pressure build-up etc.
  • Where practicable, cool the contents of the machine before allowing the product chute to open – for example, by introducing cold water into the latter stages of the process.
  • When working on plant consider the potential risks from nearby machinery and, if appropriate, isolate and de-energise nearby machinery.

Further information

The WHS Act requires persons conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons at a workplace are not exposed to risks arising from the business or undertaking and that all workers are adequately trained and supervised.

Clauses 34 to 36 of the WHS Regulation places specific obligations on duty holders to identify reasonably foreseeable hazards associated with work being undertaken, including hazards associated with any plant used, and then manage risks accordingly.

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