Recycler negligent over severed arm

BAYSWATER waste recycling plant Resource Recovery Solutions has been found guilty of “gross negligence” after a worker’s arm was amputated at the shoulder in 2016.  

It’s the first time a company has been found guilty of gross negligence under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s requirements to provide a safe work place; “the most serious offence under that act,” WorkSafe WA commissioner Darren Kavanagh said in a statement.

The penalty is pending and the maximum is $500,000. RRS director Sam Mangione is also facing an upcoming court date on the same charge. As an individual, he faces a $250,000 fine and up to two years’ gaol. The labour hire company Mode2 Group is also being prosecuted.

The labour hire worker was a “picker,” whose job was to manually remove unsuitable items from a conveyor belt and clear blockages.

In September 2016 the worker had cleared a blockage, and when the belts were restarted he reached in to remove a rock.

He was dragged into a “crush point,” and the machine removed his arm.

Worksafe WA says there was no guard around the belt’s crush points and no lockout tag procedure followed. A lockout tag procedure sees a worker lock the power supply to a machine in the off position and take the key with them before doing any work on the moving parts, meaning only they can power it back up.

Mr Kavanagh said the gross negligence verdict on Friday July 10 was significant.

“The obligation on WorkSafe as a prosecutor to prove that a company has been grossly negligent is particularly difficult.

“[RSS] had a long history of flouting workplace safety laws, particularly by failing to guard dangerous machinery despite previous serious injuries and despite being instructed to fit guarding by WorkSafe inspectors.”

Killed

In September 2013 worker Mohammad Hadi was killed at the plant when a roof panel, overloaded with five times its safe working weight, collapsed on him. Resource Recovery Solutions was fined $85,000. 

WorkSafe inspectors visited the site after the death and found conveyor belts unguarded, but Mr Kavanagh said they “were reassured that the plant was fully automated and workers were not present when the plant was running”.

The plant continued to operate without guarding, and a worker suffered a broken arm in February 2015.

Mr Kavanagh said “WorkSafe issued an Improvement Notice requiring guarding to be installed on crush points of the belts, but this was not complied with despite several reminder letters being sent to the employer”.

“The company director advised that the notice had been complied with, but this worker had his arm literally torn off by an unguarded conveyor belt.”

He says the magistrate described the disregard for safety as “blatant” and going well beyond mere neglect.

Resource Recovery Solutions didn’t respond to our request for comment. 

By DAVID BELL

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