In two recent cases in NSW, companies were fined $75,000 and $150,000 respectively after cleaners were caught in the nip points of conveyors and injured. In the first case it was found that the conveyor was inadequately guarded, due to a poor risk identification process and also because it lacked an Emergency stop (E-stop).
In the second case the company was fined for failing to ensure the conveyor belt didn’t sag, allowing access to the hazard point, and also for the lack of provision of an E-stop.
Both of these cases highlight the need for a clear hazard identification process when assessing machinery risks and ongoing inspections with routine maintenance e.g. to prevent conveyor belts becoming loose over time.
The authorities’ inclusion for the need of an E-stop in the prosecution of both these cases is interesting, as under all state and territory safety laws we have no clear requirement for when to install E-stops. Our laws do state that if required, E-stops must be located at all operator stations, be coloured red and of the stop and lock type (mushroom). In fact, if machinery is guarded in accordance with the regulations (e.g. to prevent access to the hazard point) then E-stops are technically, redundant.
The above mentioned cases involved cleaners who do not typically work at a standard operator station, so even if the machinery assessments had identified the need for an E-stop, it is unlikely that an E-stop would be in a position where the cleaners could activate it.
In this instance we would recommend a process whereby no cleaning of a conveyor should occur unless it is stopped and isolated.
E-Stops do not prevent injuries
Priority should be placed on controlling access to the hazards and maintaining this control i.e. via inspection and regular maintenance process, instead of installation of more E-stops.
Remember that an E-stop’s only value is in minimising further harm after a person is already caught in a machine, and it will not prevent the initial incident or harm from occurring.
In a panic situation, workers caught in machinery rarely think calmly to push an E-stop. Investigations reveal it is co-workers who push the E-stop after hearing the injured person’s call for help.
What can Safety Action do for you? For more information on when you are required to install an Estop contact us for a copy of our new Fact Sheet “Is an E-Stop Required?” via firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in a machine guarding assessment or risk assessment of your plant and equipment call us on (03)9690 6311 to arrange a free initial consultation.