Safety duty breaches by specialty wholesale bakery

A specialty wholesale bakery Wild Breads Pty Ltd, held duties under s19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the Act). On 11 February 2020, the defendant pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Richlands Magistrates Court for breaching s32 of the Act, having failed to meet its work health and safety duties.

On 13 November 2017, two workers were removing the build-up of bread dough in the oven loader area of a bread making production line. The oven loader was protected by an interlocked fenced enclosure. A maintenance worker had earlier opened the interlocked gate and failed to properly isolate the oven loader. In response to a plant breakdown in another area, the maintenance worker then left the zone, leaving his maintenance assistant behind in the oven loader. A production worker then joined the maintenance assistant inside the oven loader, closing the interlocked gate behind him. The production worker was assisting his colleague remove the build-up of bread dough when he reached through the fenced enclosure with his fingers and pressed a reset button, turning the oven loader on. A sensor in the oven loader caused the delivery conveyor to move towards the two workers.

The production worker managed to duck underneath the moving conveyor, however, the maintenance assistant was crushed against the oven compartment. As a result, the worker sustained serious permanent injuries to his heart, lungs and back. The worker now requires assistance with daily functions such as dressing, toileting and showering. He also requires ongoing full-time care.

After the incident, the defendant took immediate action to modify the guarding on the oven loader compartment, including the installation of an additional isolation point and keyed locks with restricted access to prevent a further incident.

Magistrate Stuart Shearer found that the gravamen of the breach was the defendant’s failure to audit safety procedures to ensure compliance. There was insufficient auditing or supervision of compliance which missed an essential step in the process of operating machinery.

His Honour accepted that the company did its best when purchasing the plant to minimise risk. However, the seriousness of the conduct had to be measured against the severe and life changing outcome of the incident. The defendant was a good corporate citizen and employed people from the local community. However, that needed to be balanced against responsibilities to those many employees with limited English skills and the need to keep them safe. Two previous work health and safety convictions against the company were relevant to the penalty and the recording of a conviction.

The Work Health and Safety Prosecutor, Aaron Guilfoyle, said that this incident demonstrates that the development and implementation of safety procedures and control measures was not, on its own, sufficient to protect workers from the risk of serious injury. Mr Guilfoyle said, "Workplaces which failed to ensure through auditing and supervision that safety procedures were being complied with put the safety of their workers at risk, and put themselves at risk of prosecution, conviction, and significant penalties."

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Court Report  
Industry Accommodation and Food Services
Date of offence 13 November 2017
Injury Multiple rib fractures, a fractured vertebrae, cardiac contusions and facial cuts and bruises, damage to mitral valve.
Court Richlands Magistrates Court
Magistrate Magistrate Stuart Shearer
Decision date 11 February 2020
Company Officer  
Legislation Sections 32 and 19(1), Work Health and Safety Act 2011
Plea Guilty
Penalty $90,000
Maximum fine available $1,500,000
Professional and legal costs $0
Court costs $96.50
In default period to pay 12 months
Conviction recorded Yes