A poultry wholesaler has been fined more than $400,000 after a worker’s leg was amputated when it became stuck in an auger — which was on at the time.
Process worker John Evans lost his left leg in the February 19, 2020 incident at the Inghams Enterprises Pty Limited turkey processing plant in Tahmoor.
Evans, who had worked at the plant since 2012, was in an ice room when a grate covering an auger in the floor — which was used to break up the ice — dislodged.
Watch the latest news and stream for free on 7plus >>
His right leg became caught in the operating auger and he fell, and his left leg also became trapped.
Evans was able to pull his right leg free but couldn’t free his left leg.
He was trapped in the spinning auger for some time before a co-worker heard yelling and went to investigate.
The co-worker found Evans trapped and rushed to turn off the auger, while calling out to other workers for help.
“When he was discovered, Mr Evans was covered by fallen ice,” NSW District Court Judge Wendy Strathdee said in penalising the company on Thursday.
“The grate in front of Mr Evans had bowed up and was covered in ice and blood.
“Mr Evans passed in and out of consciousness until emergency services attended the plant.”
Emergency services weren’t able to free Evans’ left leg and the decision was made to amputate it, to the top of the knee, at the scene.
Evans was then taken to Liverpool Hospital where he underwent a number of operations and spent two weeks recovering.
SafeWork NSW charged Inghams with failing in its work health and safety duty, exposing workers to a risk of death or serious injury.
The company pleaded guilty.
The investigation revealed Evans had previously been injured in January 2019 when a large amount of ice collapsed onto him while working inside the ice room.
The ice hit Evans’ head, causing him to fall back and injure his left arm, hand and neck.
Inghams had safe work procedures in place for the ice rooms at the time of the 2020 incident, but Strathdee found they weren’t good enough.
“This is not a defendant without systems to protect its workers, but unfortunately they were inadequate,” she said.
“The purpose of the metal grates was to prevent persons coming into contact with the auger and getting entangled in it.
“They were (usually) bolted to the floor and, in order to be removed or lifted up, the grates needed to be unbolted with hand tools, such as a spanner.
“The grates used in the area (of the incident) were not in place and secured, but nobody is able with any precision to identify what it was that caused the grates to move.
“If they had been appropriately in place and secured, the risk would have been eliminated.
“The risk to which workers including Mr Evans were exposed was an obvious one.
“The harm, if the risk materialised, was of the utmost seriousness and was potentially catastrophic.
“The steps taken to avoid resultant harm were simple and straightforward.
“One can only imagine the suffering that Mr Evans has experienced and sadly will continue to do so, the incident having had no doubt a lifelong impact on him.
“I am satisfied that the injury, emotional harm, loss or damage caused by the offence was substantial.”
Inghams was fined $450,00 and the company was ordered to pay the prosecutor’s costs of $51,000.