Crews respond: Tiffany Upton was airlifted to Brisbane after the incident.
Crews respond: Tiffany Upton was airlifted to Brisbane after the incident.

Wickham Farms fined over accident

WICKHAM Farms at Killarney has been fined $43,000 after a teenage worker was seriously injured at its vegetable-processing plant in Ivy Street in 2008.

A Justice Department spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the company pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Industrial Magistrates Court to breaching the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995.

The court heard casual employee Tiffany Upton (pictured), aged 18 at the time, was cleaning potato processing equipment when her arms were dragged into the machine by a rotating auger screw on October 15, 2008.

A co-worker immediately shut down the machine, but Ms Upton remained trapped for more than an hour as emergency crews worked frantically to free her.

Ms Upton suffered severe injuries to her arms, including multiple fractures, lacerations, and severed tendons and arteries.

As a result she now has virtually no use of her right hand and some disability to her left arm.

The Justice Department spokeswoman said the court heard Ms Upton had also suffered psychological trauma, including nightmares and flashbacks and had not returned to work.

“The workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation revealed the company did not institute a safe system for performing the task of cleaning the machine without exposing workers to risks from moving parts,” the spokeswoman said.

“The court was told Wickham Farms did not undertake any hazard identification or risk assessment for the operation of the auger, and that the injured worker received no safety induction for performing the task, including how the machine could be turned off.”

She said the company had no documented procedure requiring the machine be shut down for cleaning.

“The guard on the lift auger was removed daily and the ability to replace the guard was dependent on the physical height of workers,” the spokeswoman said.

She said that following the incident the company had secured the guard on the machine by welding it into position, preventing access to the auger screw, and had “developed and documented a process for cleaning and operating the auger and for training workers”.

In sentencing, Magistrate Sheryl Cornack took into account that the company had entered an early guilty plea, had co-operated fully with the investigation and this was its first time before the court.

She also ordered the company pay court costs totalling $2919.

A Wickham Farms spokeswoman said the firm took workplace safety seriously and they deeply regretted the accident.

“As this was our first time before the court no conviction was recorded,” the spokeswoman said.



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