29 Sep Standards, Guarding, Training, and Employees’ Actions
The below headline caught my attention recently, and after reading the court notes, I can’t understand why this can still happen in this day and age (29 years since health and safety laws were introduced into New Zealand), or are there other factors involved that have not been made known?
Don’t let your standards for operating machinery slip – click title to read the article.
During the March 2019 incident while cleaning the machine a worker reached in to clear meat from between a rotating paddle and the inside wall of the machine, when his fingers became caught.
The machine hadn’t been stopped correctly and it restarted as part of its cycle. Four fingers on the worker’s hand were immediately amputated. The worker’s fingers were unable to be reattached.
Is it the lack of cleaning procedures for the machines that are the cause of serious accidents?
Is it due to the employees not following the rules of machinery lockout before cleaning, or removing a safety guard to save time?
Over the past 28 years, I have seen and read of accidents like this, often resulting in a fatality or as described above.
Often it’s a case that even though the accident victim had been trained and supervised, a safe cleaning procedure had been in place and was known by the victim, with the lock out procedure described in the procedure, shortcuts have been taken.
In this particular case, it was as described – the operator did not follow the set down standards – so why was it that the company got financially hammered by the court, when the following comment from WorkSafe NZ appears to indicate that it was the employee that did not follow the cleaning process or standards?
“Instead of accessing the machine via its raised platform and from behind an interlocked guard, a step ladder was used to gain access to an unguarded area of the machinery, against best practice and the direction of the manufacturers operating manual…”
My suggestion to any business or H&S manager is that – never assume a worker will not do something, that in your mind is common sense.
Another factor that is often overlooked is that there are some employees that are very conscientious with a strong work ethic, and will go that extra mile to please – sometimes this includes taking risks with dire consequences.
Nothing is full proof especially when it comes to guarding machinery, so I suggest that you leave nothing to chance. Access a copy of AS/NZS 4024: 2014 from Standards NZ and use this as your bible to get it right. A test for grilled guarding is to use a rubber arm and to extend the fingers through the grill to see that there are the correct distances and spacings.
Do not skimp on technology, there are plenty of options for timed based cut/lock out switches and other safety isolating equipment. An issue with older equipment is that they can “run on” when turned off. This is where you must critically review all machinery to enable to make it foolproof, or as someone once said – “idiot proof”!
Again, never assume that someone will not try to take a shortcut. One of the key safety guards for your defence that you can have is to have good and easily accessed records of what you have done to prove your compliance and due diligence.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss.