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Prosecution Details

Defendant Elders Hycube Pty Ltd
Section 19(1) and 19(7)
Offence Date Friday, 22 October 2004
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer, did not so far as practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which its employees were not exposed to hazards and by that failure caused serious harm to an employee and contravened sections 19(1) and (7) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

1. The accused was engaged in the work of processing hay into small, compacted bales.

2. The accused's workplace included a shed that contained a hay press machine which processed the hay into bales. The hay press was installed from about December 2003 to May 2004 when it commenced production.

3. About 10 employees worked for the accused in Brookton. Two of these employees were the State Manager and the Production Manager.

4. Part of their usual duties was to operate the hay press.

5. The hay press was operated by five keys. Some of the keys controlled only a part of the hay press, others shut down the entire hay press.

6. If any part of the hay press jammed the Accused's procedure required its worker to turn off the whole hay press and remove that key from the control panel. The worker was to then use their hands or a tool such as a crow bar to unjam the hay stuck in the hay press. When that worker had unjammed the hay press he or she was to put the key back into the control panel and restart the hay press.

7. On Friday, 22 October 2004 at about 5.30 pm, all of the workers in the hay processing factory had gone home, except the State Manager and Production Manager. At 7.00 pm the State Manager noticed that the straps around a bale of hay had broken and the hay had expanded and jammed in the entrance to the cutter box of the hay press. It was quit common for a bale to get caught in the cutter box.

8. The State Manager went to the control panel of the press, switched off the entire hay press, took that key out of the control panel, and climbed into the hay press.

9. He stood on top of the jammed bale and tried to release it. Having heard the machine shut down, the Production Manager called out to the State Manager and asked if he needed any help. The State Manager said yes. The Production Manager went to where the State Manager was standing to help him to unjam the bale with a crow bar. The State Manager then suggested that they tie a rope to the bale and the cutter box ram and turn the machine on so the ram would move back and pull the bale out from where it was jammed.

10. About 2 months earlier the State Manager and two other persons who worked for the accused had used the same method to unjam a bale of hay from the same part of the hay press.

11. The State Manager handed the Production Manager a rope so that he could tie it to the bale and the ram and walked back to the control panel. As the Production Manager was attaching the rope, the State Manager re-started the hay press and the conveyor on which the Production Manager was standing, started to move. This caused the Production Manager to lose his balance and his right foot became trapped. He then felt his foot being torn away from his leg.

12. The State Manager heard the Production Manager call out and hit the emergency stop button on the control panel. The hay press shut down but not before the Production Manager's foot had been torn from his right leg halfway between the ankle and the knee.

13. After the offence the accused put a metal box over the control panel and padlocked it with one padlock for each employee. Each employee was given a key to one of the padlocks.

14. If an employee wanted to open the control box he or she had to open his or her padlock, access the control box, and then padlock it closed. This ensured that if an employee had turned the hay press off so that he or she could access it, no one else could turn the hay press back on.

15. This lockout system had been on the hay press operated by the accused up to about 2004 when it replaced the pay press with that involved in the offence. When it replaced its hay press the accused maintained the written instructions applicable to its old hay press, but they could not be followed because it did not place a lockout jaw onto the control panel so that each worker could padlock the control panel. Part of the written instructions directed employees to ensure that they did not operate the hay press while someone was inside it.

16. As a result of the incident the Production Manager's right foot and leg halfway between his ankle and knee were permanently amputated.

Outcome Summary Plead Guilty
Conviction Date 06 Mar 2008
Court Perth
Fine $125,000
Costs $2,400.70
Charge Number NG891/07