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Prosecution Details

Offender Resource Recovery Solutions Pty Ltd (ACN 128 285 263)

Charges

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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 PE39876/2018 28 Janurary 2016 10th July 2020 3A(4)(b)(i) $310,000.00 9th November 2020
2 PE39837/2018 Between 1 August 2015 & 28 January 2016 10th July 2020 3A(1)(b)(ii)(I) $20,000.00 9th November 2020
Description of Breach(es)

Charge 1   - Where under a labour hire arrangement work was carried out for remuneration by a worker, for the Accused who was a client of a labour hire agent, in the course of the Accused’s trade or business, in relation to matters over which the Accused had the capacity to exercise control, the Accused failed to, so far as practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which a worker was not exposed to hazards, in circumstances of gross negligence; contrary to sections 19(1), 19A(1) and 18A when read with s23F of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Charge 2 - Being a person to whom improvement notice No. 61500197 was issued by an inspector duly appointed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, failed to comply with the improvement notice within the time specified therein; contrary to Sections 48(4) and 54 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The Accused is a company that specialises in recycling waste from construction and demolition sites and is based at 50 Clune Street in Bayswater where waste material is brought to the workplace by trucks.  Sometimes these are tip-trucks that have been loaded by earthmoving machinery at the construction or demolition site.  Other trucks deliver skip bins that have been collected from construction and demolition sites.

The main part of the workplace is a very large shed housing an automated recycling plant.  Within that shed there are a number of crushers, shredders, oscillators and screeners with the material being moved through the process by a series of conveyors. 

The workplace operated over two shifts, a morning shift (6am to 230pm) and a night shift (230pm to 1030pm). 

After the product is brought to the site and tipped out by trucks, the product is fed into the large, automated recycling plant where it is processed by a series of machines.  The purpose of this processing is to separate the material into various products, which are then on-sold by the Accused.  Metal objects are removed by magnetised conveyors, and then sold as scrap metal.  Lightweight items such as paper and plastic are ‘blown’ off the product stream by high velocity air in machines called the Dense Outs. Small items such as sand and gravel, which are eventually sold for use as road base, are removed from the product stream by screening machinery before reaching a small pre-fabricated hut known as the Picking Station.

In the Picking Station, several workers (normally five to six, known as pickers or sorters), manually remove items from the conveyor belts.  The pickers would remove anything that was not suitable to go into the machinery, such as plastic, food scraps, paper etc. Items such as bricks, stones and timber are left on the belt to be processed by other machinery further downstream. 

Workers in this Picking Station were supplied to the Accused by a labour hire company.

After the product passes through the Picking Station, it travels along other conveyor belts.  The masonry and rocks go to a part of the factory called Area 5.  A large crusher in Area 5 would break up these pieces.  One of the conveyor belts in Area 5 was known as the Diversion Belt.

In addition to sorting materials inside the Picking Station, the pickers’ job included assisting in the clearing of blockages or jams occurring in the various machines. There were frequent blockages.   

Some conveyor belts at the workplace, such as the Diversion Belt, needed to be visually monitored after having a blockage cleared, to ensure that the entire blockage had been cleared and that the belt was running properly.

The conveyors were operated from a control room by a plant operator. The plant operator could not see all areas of the workplace from the control room, including the pickers in the Picking Station and Area 5.

It was another worker’s role to patrol the areas the operator could not see, such as Area 5, looking for blockages and sharp objects that might damage the belts. On the night shift on 28 January 2016, this person was Worker A.

The belts in Area 5 could also be operated separately from a control panel nearby.

The procedure was that if one of the workers saw a blocked belt they would press the emergency stop button which would stop all of the belts.  Sometimes the belts would stop automatically due to a blockage.  The workers would all then move to the area to help remove the blockage. If the blockage was in Area 5 and difficult to identify, the plant operator would go to Area 5 to start up Area 5 from the nearby control panel.

The Day of the Accident

On the night shift of 28 January 2016, all of the pickers were of Sri Lankan origin and some did not understand English.

The victim was one of the pickers working in the Picking Station. 

There had been repeated problems with the belts that afternoon and following another blockage the victim made his way to a belt near the crusher in Area 5 along with the other workers from the Picking Station, as per the usual procedure when a blockage occurred.

Due to the repeated stoppages Worker A called the plant operator on the two way radio and the plant operator attended Area 5. 

The blockage was removed from the belt near the crusher but when the plant operator started the belts from the nearby control panel the belts stopped again and it was thought that a blockage was still affecting the Diversion Belt. 

Worker A was standing next to the plant operator by the control panel and the victim and another picker, Worker B, positioned themselves on either side of the Diversion Belt facing it so they could remove the cause of the blockage with their hands.  The victim was on the side of the belt closest to the control panel. 

The plant operator started the belt again.  As he did, the victim reached in to remove a rock.  His arm was then dragged into the crush point between the belt and roller and was amputated at the shoulder.

The workers had accessed Area 5 from the Picking Station via a walkway and had passed through a gate just prior to the Diversion Belt.  While the gate had a bolt lock fitted the gate was open and was not at the time of the incident part of an interlock system that stopped the conveyors. It was normal for this gate to be open. Many of the workers had never seen this gate closed.

There was no guarding around the crush points of the Diversion Belt.

There was no lock out, tag out procedure followed to isolate the moving parts of the plant when removing blockages from the Diversion Belt.

Whenever a blockage occurred it was the usual procedure for the pickers to go to the area of the blockage and assist by using their hands to remove items such as sand and rocks, often from moving conveyor belts.

The Accused had failed to ensure that persons working at the workplace were:

a)       provided with such information on the hazards (including nip/pinch points), risks (including serious injury and death) and safety controls relevant to working closely with plant containing potentially dangerous moving parts, such as the Diversion Belt, as was necessary to enable them to perform work closely with plant containing potentially dangerous moving parts in such a manner that were not exposed to such hazards and ensured that those persons understood that information; and

b)        adequately instructed and trained in a formalised safe working procedure for clearing blockages in plant containing potentially dangerous moving parts, such as the Diversion Belt (including testing and start-up of such plant following attempted blockage clearance) which enabled them to perform such work in such a manner that they were not exposed to hazards and ensured that those persons understood that instruction and training; and

c)       provided with direct supervision by the leading shift supervisor or overall plant supervisor, at all times when those persons were required to attend to blockages or testing of plant containing potentially dangerous moving parts, such as the Diversion Belt.

Timeline of Relevant Matters

19 December 2013 – WorkSafe Inspectors conduct general safety inspection of the workplace and identify that numerous conveyor belts are not guarded. Director of the Accused, and a Manager inform the Inspectors that workers are not out on the factory floor when the plant is running because it is fully automated.

20 December 2013 – WorkSafe issues the Accused with Improvement Notices for a variety of matters, although none of those Improvement Notices related to guarding (in light of the information provided that no workers were on the factory floor when the plant was running).

23 February 2015 – A Worker suffers a broken arm at the workplace when it is dragged into a moving conveyor belt.  The worker had been working on the belt whilst it was running when he noticed a stick or stone that he tried to remove. His arm was dragged in.

3 March 2015 – WorkSafe Inspectors visit the workplace to investigate the circumstances surrounding the worker’s injury. The Accused’s new manager informs the Inspectors that workers can be working on or near moving conveyor belts several times a day. A WorkSafe Inspector tells the director that an Improvement Notice will be issued the following day. The director advises the WorkSafe Inspector that he could leave the Improvement Notice with the manager.

4 March 2015 – A WorkSafe Inspector issues the Accused with Improvement Notice 61500197, requiring the Accused to ensure that all dangerous moving parts of plant at the workplace are adequately guarded in accordance with regulation 4.29 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996. The compliance date for this Improvement Notice was 30 June 2015. The WorkSafe Inspector also gave the Accused a copy of two relevant WorkSafe publications about machinery guarding, ‘Machinery and Equipment Safety – an Introduction’, and ‘Code of Practice – Safeguarding of Machinery and Plant (2009)’.

1 July 2015 – The Improvement Notice had not yet been complied with. Nor had the Accused sought any Review of the Improvement Notice. 

2 July 2015 – A letter is sent to the Accused from WorkSafe’s Director for Industrial and Regional Industries, notifying the Accused that WorkSafe had not received notice from the Accused of compliance with the Improvement Notice.

16 July 2015 – A second letter is sent to the Accused from WorkSafe’s Director for Industrial and Regional Industries stating again that WorkSafe had not been notified of compliance with the Improvement Notice.

30 July 2015 – A third letter is sent to the Accused from WorkSafe’s Director for Industrial and Regional Industries stating again that WorkSafe had not been notified of compliance with the Improvement Notice, and informing the Accused that an Inspector would be assigned to carry out a compliance verification inspection forthwith.

5 August 2015 – The WorkSafe Inspector visits the workplace to check progress in relation to the Improvement Notice. Although some progress had been made by the Accused, the Improvement Notice had not yet been complied with.

30 October 2015 – The WorkSafe Inspector again visits the workplace to check progress in relation to the Improvement Notice. Progress had continued but the Improvement Notice had still not yet been complied with.

24 December 2015 – As the Improvement Notice compliance slip had still not been returned, the WorkSafe Inspector telephones the manager for an update. There is no answer.  The WorkSafe Inspector is unaware that the manager has now resigned from the workplace.

12 January 2016 – The WorkSafe Inspector tries to call the manager again.  Again there is no answer.

18 January 2016 – Having had no reply from the manager (and still being unaware that he had resigned), the WorkSafe Inspector sends an e-mail to the Accused’s director.  Attached to this e-mail is a letter asking the Accused for an update in relation to the guarding issue. 

25 January 2016 – The director sends an e-mail to the WorkSafe Inspector with the signed compliance slip attached. The compliance slip, signed by the director, indicates that all dangerous moving parts of plant at the workplace are now adequately guarded as required by the Improvement Notice.

27 January 2016 – The WorkSafe Inspector sends an e-mail to the director advising that he will attend the workplace to inspect the guarding on the morning of 29 January 2016.

28 January 2016 – The victim has his arm amputated in an unguarded conveyor belt at the workplace.




Outcome Summary

After a ten day trial the Magistrate found the accused guilty on both charges. On 10 July 2020, the Accused was convicted of gross negligence and with failing to comply with an improvement notice.    On 9 November 2020 the Magistrate fined the accused $310,000 for the gross negligence charge and $20,000 for failing to comply with an improvement notice.  Costs ordered $234,000.

Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Perth
Costs $234,000

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