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Prosecution Details

Defendant Koast Corporation Pty Ltd
Trading Name Green Recycling
Section 19(1) and 19(6)
Offence Date Tuesday, 10 February 2004
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer failed, so far as is practicable, to provide and maintain a working environment in which its employees were not exposed to hazards and thereby contravened sections 19(1) and 19(6) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The accused operated a recycling plant at Picton, and employed employees who worked at the recycling plant.

The recycling plant received delivery of waste and separated the paper, plastic and aluminium products from each other before baling them together and transporting them out of the plant. The plant consisted of a series of conveyors and other machines which assisted in sorting the waste. The machinery included a trommel which separated paper and non-paper products by rotating and causing glass and plastic to fall through the trommel onto a conveyor.

The trommel consisted of a cylindrical drum 4.7 metres long and 2.4 metres in diameter. It had 171 holes in it which are 18cm in diameter. At the input end of the drum there were a series of parallel bars 4.5 cm apart. The trommel drum was at an angle of 10 to 15 degrees. It was driven by an electric motor and gearbox which rotated the drum at 8 to 9 rpm.

On 10 February 2004 the manager of the recycling plant, instructed an employee to get inside the trommel and clear the rubbish which had accumulated underneath it by pushing through the holes in the bottom of the trommel. The employee was told to do this during the 10 to 15 minutes that it would take for the next bale of cardboard to be tied together. To ensure that he could complete the job within this time he asked another employee to help him.

Before the employees entered the trommel the plant was switched off. Both employees then climbed inside the trommel and began to push the rubbish through with a broom and their hands. As they pushed the rubbish through the trommel the rubbish became blocked on the conveyor below. As a result another employee asked a fork-lift driver to turn on the conveyor so that it would move the rubbish along.

A switch inside one of two control boxes controlled the trommel's power supply. There was no label inside or outside of the two control boxes to indicate which box contained the switch for which piece of plant. The fork-lift driver went to the office and got the key for the control boxes from the manager, unlocked the control box and commenced trying to identify the button for the conveyor underneath the trommel by pushing different buttons. Each time that he pushed the incorrect button and started a piece of plant another employee would call out to the fork-lift driver to let him know he had not pushed the correct switch.

Another employee of the Defendant told the fork-lift driver that he thought the switch for the conveyor underneath the trommel was in the control box DB2 which was next to control boxes one and two. The fork-lift driver unlocked control box DB2. Like control boxes one and two, none of the switches inside control box DB2 were labelled. One by one the fork-lift driver pushed the buttons in the box and each time activated the wrong piece of plant. During this process he pushed the button which started the trommel while the two employees were working inside of it.

The fork-lift driver could not see the trommel from where he was standing at the control box so he did not know that he had started it until someone yelled at him to stop the trommel. The employees suffered minor injuries. At the relevant date the Defendant did not have:
a. any procedures for the safe cleaning of the trommel;
b. any procedures for shutting down the trommel;
c. switches which allowed the isolation of the power supply to the trommel and the locking out of that power supply so that maintenance of it could be safely performed; or
d. labels on the switch boxes to indicate which switch operated which piece of plant.

On 27 November 2003 the Defendant was issued with a Prohibition Notice on the basis that there was no system of isolation, lock out and tag out at the workplace so that plant could be safely inspected, repaired and maintained. The notice was not disputed, and the Defendant advised WorkSafe that it had complied with the notice. On 11 December 2003 the inspector provided the manager with information of Australian Standard AS4024.1 which relate to isolation, lock out and tag out of plant. The Prohibition Notice was not disputed.

The accused pleaded guilty. In considering the appropriate penalty in this case the Magistrate took into account the prosecution's concession that inadvertent activation of the trommel while employees were inside it did not result in serious injury and due to the nature of the trommel, could not have potentially resulted in serious injury.

Outcome Summary Convicted
Conviction Date 10 Jun 2005
Court Magistrates Court of WA - Bunbury Registry
Fine $15,000
Costs $398.45
Charge Number 2826/05