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Heat Exhaustion Leads to Worker Death

Jun 21st 2021

Heat Exhaustion Leads to Worker Death

Conviction and fine after maintenance worker crushed. 

An employee at a food manufacturer suffered a traumatic incident undertaking maintenance work while a machine was in operation, resulting in the company being convicted and fined $125,000.

The Dandenong Magistrates Court heard that in January 2019, the worker crawled under a conveyor in a large warming chamber used to prove dough to clear a blockage.

Another worker acting as a 'spotter' was communicating via radio with a third worker at the control panel but unable to see inside the chamber. The maintenance worker was crushed when the console operator started the machine, mishearing the spotter's response when asked if he should 'inch' the conveyor back and forth to clear the jam.

The injured employee was trapped for 30 minutes and received internal bruising, minor scarring and lower back pain.

The company pleaded guilty in June 2019 to failing to provide a safe workplace by failing to provide an auxiliary control to eliminate or reduce the risk to workers undertaking maintenance while a machine is operated.

Read the full article on the WorkSafe Victoria website.  

No inquest for the death of Belgium backpacker on North Qld fruit farm. 

A Belgium backpacker picking fruit at a family-run farm near Home Hill was working to secure a second-year extension on his Working Holiday Visa when he died on November 1, 2017.

The 27-year-old, contracted to pick watermelons for a day in Ayr then harvest pumpkin crops, had worked for three days when other workers noticed he was exhausted and struggling to keep up. He then became delirious and ran erratically through the field before collapsing and convulsing seven hours into his shift.

Despite efforts to cool him down, he remained unresponsive and first responders at the scene registered his body temperature at 48C.

Northern coroner Nerida Wilson's investigation found that the organs of the foreign national failed due to heatstroke from working in temperatures as high as 40C in the sun. She ruled his death was preventable and caused by a fatal mix of limited shade, extreme heat and ill-preparedness.

In 2019 the man's family wrote to the Coroner asking for an inquest into his death before becoming aware that the farm owner and contractor would face charges. Investigations by the Office of Industrial Relations found that despite the heat and limited shade, workers were pressured to continue work and the employers' failure to assess the danger of the conditions significantly contributed to the backpacker's death.

A Coroners Court of Queensland spokesman said that the matter was not required to go to inquest based on the finalisation of the investigation.

The farm owner and contractor were fined $100,000 and $65,000, respectively, for breaching Queensland's Work Health and Safety Act.

The full article is available on the Townsville Bulletin website.

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