Rubber company fined $450,000 after fatal blow to worker

A rubber product manufacturer in Dandenong South Victoria has been convicted and fined $450,000 after a worker died when he was struck on the head by a machine component.

The Elastomers was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to provide plant that was, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.

The 47-year-old worker was struck on the head by a moving part of a rubber extrusion processing line at the company’s Dandenong South factory in May 2021.

The court heard that the worker had entered the danger zone beneath a moving part known as the “wig wag,” presumably to remove a blockage, automatically triggering a light curtain safety sensor, which caused the machine to shut down.

However, another operator at a different level, who could not see the worker, restarted the machine from the upper control panel, causing the wig wag to begin moving and strike him on the head.

The worker was treated by paramedics but died at the scene.

A WorkSafe investigation found there was a gap between the light curtain that triggered the shutdown and the danger zone, which meant that it was not continuously broken while the worker was in the danger zone, making it possible to restart the machine.

It was reasonably practicable for The Elastomers to have provided guarding, including a physical interlock barrier, to prevent access to the danger zone while the machine was operating.

“This terrible incident was entirely foreseeable and, tragically, a worker has paid for the employer’s lack of foresight with his life,” said WorkSafe Victoria executive director health and safety, Narelle Beer.

“Safety guarding on plant and machinery is crucial and it’s incumbent upon employers to provide workers with the highest possible level of safety, including proactively identifying risks and asking: are the control measures we have in place enough?”