Waste transfer and recycling business fined $140,000 over shredder fatality

A waste transfer and recycling business in Queensland has been fined $140,000 after pleading guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court over an incident in which a worker died while operating an onsite shredder that processed waste material.The company was charged following the death of a worker on 22 January 2021, who was working a nightshift loading material into a shredder at the waste business.

The worker commenced employment as a machine operator for the company approximately six months earlier.

On the night of the incident, two workers were tasked to clear a large pile of waste on the floor of the processing shed with no supervisor present.

When this work was being completed, the shredder was in a poor mechanical state. Most of its “teeth” were non-operational and due to be replaced. The lack of teeth impacted the ability to shred the material, and as a result, the material became stuck within the shredder, causing blockages.

The workers would first try to clear the blockage by going underneath the overhead three-tonne magnetic conveyor and reaching into the internal part of the shredder via the discharge chute to remove waste material.

At approximately 1.30am, the worker undertaking the clearing task was crushed when the remote toggle for the conveyor was activated against the body of the shredder.

An investigation by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland found that the company had not conducted a risk assessment of the shredder. There were no training or documented procedures specific to clearing blockages; the only safety measure was an undocumented ‘lockout and tagout’ approach.

There were no secondary safety measures. Further, the operator manual erroneously stated that the magnetic conveyor was not operational if the shredder was in manual mode. This error was only discovered upon the worker’s death.