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Prosecution Details

Offender Benale Pty . Limited
Trading Name Fletcher International W.A.


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Charge Charge Number Offence Date Date Convicted Regulation Section Penalty Provision Penalty Imposed Date Sentenced
1 Unknown at time of publication 22 April 2005 6th September 2006 3A(3)(b)(i) $27,500.00 6th September 2006
Description of Breach(es)

Being an employer failed, so far as was practicable, to 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; contrary to sections 19(1) and 19A(2) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984.

Background Details

The accused is the owner and operator of a meat processing and exporting business, having a number of production facilities throughout Australia, including a large production facility located in the greater Albany region at Narrikup. The workplace is a large sheep abattoir, employing in the vicinity of 450 people, who work in two shifts.

The accused's operations at the workplace include holding pens, a slaughter floor, a skin shed and a cold cut room. Once sheep have been slaughtered on the slaughter floor, their skins are removed and sent to the skin shed, while the carcasses are forwarded to the cold cut room to be butchered into various cuts of meat that are then packed for sale in a production line process. The cold cut room is a refrigerated working environment within which are located a number of items of plant and equipment used in the butchering process including bandsaws, conveyor belts and carousels.

At the time of the offence, in one part of the cold cutting room, the layout of the working environment and system of work was as follows. There were two bandsaw tables, known as table 3 and table 5. At these two tables portions of sheep carcasses were sawn into various parts. Once sawn, sheep racks and shoulders were placed by the operator of the table 3 bandsaw on a conveyor belt ("Conveyor 1") situated immediately behind them .

Conveyor 1 transported the racks and shoulders away from the operator of table 3 to a carousel where they were subsequently wrapped and packed. The operator of table 5 placed sawn racks and shoulders onto a separate conveyor belt ("Conveyor 2"), which is then fed onto Conveyor 1, such that the racks and shoulders sawn by the table 5 operator were also transported ultimately to the same carousel as those sawn at table 3.

At approximately 1:00 am on 22 April 2005, a 17-year-old employee of the accused was carrying out some final cleaning duties before concluding her shift, which included picking up scraps of meat off the floor. She was standing in between table 3 and the end of Conveyor 1. Nearby were two of her co-workers who were also engaged in cleaning activities prior to concluding their shift. Most other members of the shift were near the exit to the cold cut room, waiting to clock off and finish their shift. While sawing, cutting and packing operations had ceased at this time, Conveyor 1 was still running.

To retrieve a scrap of meat from the floor of the cold cut room the employee placed her left hand upon the end of one of the brackets upon which the roller at the end of the Conveyor 1 (the end nearest to table 3) was mounted. It was her intention to support herself on that bracket while she bent down to retrieve the scrap of meat. At this point the end of the sleeve of a large blue jacket that she was wearing became entangled in the belt and end roller of Conveyor 1. The conveyor started to draw her sleeve and then her hand into it. All employees in the cold cut room are provided with the same blue jacket by their employer to assist in keeping them warm and clean in that working environment. Conveyor 1 continued to run, drawing in her hand, her wrist and then her arm up to her shoulder, such that her head was pulled up close to the surface of the belt on Conveyor 1.

Hearing her distress, her two co-workers attempted to free her from the conveyor. One of them took hold of Ms Garland and attempted to pull her out of Conveyor 1. Meanwhile, the other attempted to find the switch for Conveyor 1 and turn it off, however, neither of them knew the location of the "off" switch and their attempts were unsuccessful. Eventually Conveyor 1 was turned off by a supervisor working on that shift who, on hearing the commotion from the other side of the room, crossed a distance of some 20m or more before locating the switch and turning the Conveyor off. The injured employee was then pulled out of Conveyor 1 by her co-workers, some 10-15 seconds or so after becoming entangled.

As well as suffering crushing and fracture injuries to her left hand, a significant portion of her palm was de-gloved. She also suffered multiple abrasions up the length of her arm and to the left side of her body caused by the grating effect of the belt as it continued to move against her while she was held in Conveyor 1.

Following this incident, the accused had a metal guard fitted over the end of the conveyor. If this guard had previously been in place, the likelihood of the injury occurring would have been significantly reduced. The accused also subsequently fitted an emergency stop button to the conveyor and included a segment on conveyor belt safety in an induction program given to all new employees.

The accused pleaded guilty.

Outcome Summary


Court Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Perth
Costs $435.70

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