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Workplace Safety Alert: Worker Loses Arm Due to Unsafe Machine

WorkSafe New Zealand is urging businesses to prioritize the safety of moving machinery following a devastating incident at a concrete manufacturer in Manawatū. In November 2021, a worker at Dunlop Drymix Limited in Feilding had his arm amputated while cleaning a conveyor belt. This tragic accident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of implementing proper safety measures in the workplace.

The Incident and Its Consequences

The worker was alone early in the morning when he reached to retrieve a dropped tool from the conveyor belt. Unfortunately, his right arm was caught by the rollers and pulled further into the machine. Despite his efforts to seek help, surgeons were unable to reattach his arm, leaving him unable to work.

Avoidable Safety Failures

An investigation conducted by WorkSafe revealed several safety failures that contributed to the incident. The conveyor’s off switch was located in a separate warehouse, and the emergency stop switch was disconnected and non-functional. Additionally, Dunlop Drymix had no standard operating procedure for cleaning the machine and had not conducted a sufficient risk assessment. Staff had not been adequately trained on safe cleaning practices.

As a result of these safety breaches, Dunlop Drymix Limited has been sentenced for its health and safety failures.

Preventing Similar Incidents

WorkSafe emphasizes the importance of protecting workers from machinery-related injuries. By implementing the following practical safety measures, businesses can prevent such accidents:

1. Safeguard Machinery to Industry Standards

Machinery should be properly safeguarded according to industry standards. This includes ensuring that emergency stop switches are functioning and easily accessible. Regular inspections and maintenance should be conducted to identify and address any potential hazards.

2. Develop Standard Operating Procedures

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be established for all aspects of machinery use, including cleaning and maintenance. These SOPs should clearly outline safe practices and protocols to minimize the risk of accidents. Regular training sessions should be conducted to ensure that all employees are familiar with these procedures.

3. Conduct Comprehensive Risk Assessments

Risk assessments should be carried out to identify potential hazards associated with machinery use. These assessments should be thorough and involve input from workers who directly interact with the machinery. Any identified risks should be mitigated through appropriate control measures.

4. Prioritize Worker Training and Awareness

All employees should receive comprehensive training on safe machinery use, including cleaning and maintenance procedures. Workers should be made aware of the potential risks and hazards associated with their tasks and how to mitigate them. Regular refresher training should also be provided to ensure that safety practices are consistently followed.

By implementing these safety measures, businesses can protect their workers from machinery-related accidents and create a safer work environment.

For more information on safeguarding conveyors and other workplace safety advice, please refer to the WorkSafe New Zealand website.

About Dunlop Drymix Limited’s Sentencing

Dunlop Drymix Limited was sentenced at Palmerston North District Court on 19 October 2023. The company was fined $297,000 and ordered to pay $60,000 in reparations. The charges were brought under sections 36(1)(a) and 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

As a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking), Dunlop Drymix Limited failed to comply with its duty to ensure the health and safety of its workers. This failure exposed the workers to a risk of death or serious injury arising from the conveyor’s nip point. The maximum penalty for such breaches is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.

It is essential for businesses to prioritize workplace safety and adhere to established guidance and standards to prevent similar incidents from occurring.

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