Garden fertiliser company A Richards Pty Ltd, trading as Richgro Garden Products, was fined $100,000 late last month after insufficient fencing led to a worker’s death in 2012.
The Perth Magistrates Court fined the company on November 26, after it pled guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment. The accident took place at its Jandakot facility, in southern Perth.
Richgro had failed to adequately fence off the operating area of an automated robot palletiser it had purchased back in 2008, which stacked bagged fertiliser onto pallets. In August 2012, one of the robot’s operators entered the area and was pinned against the conveyor, leading to his death.
Although Richgro had installed a 6 foot-high steel mesh perimeter fence around the robot upon purchasing it, it had failed to instal a particular panel leaving a gap through which workers could enter the area. It also replaced one panel with a gate, on which it neglected to instal an interlock.
The Magistrate ruled that both of these decisions were reckless and violated the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1984. Installing guards around dangerous machinery is typical practice in manufacturing and other industrial sites, in order to prevent worker death and injury.
WorkSafe Western Australia Acting Executive Director Ian Munns commented that the case highlighted the importance of having well-designed safety and security supplies on site, such as forklift segregation barriers.
“Many workers have been seriously injured or killed when equipment or machinery they were working on has been activated, so it’s absolutely crucial that safe systems of work are in place,” he said in a November 26 release.
“It seems that employers are just not getting the message that guarding is absolutely essential and that it is never safe to allow the moving parts of machinery – especially robot machinery – to remain unguarded.”
Mr Munns said that the safety features subsequently installed on the area – such as an interlock on the access gate – made the case particularly notable. It only cost around $3,500.