$82K fine for negligent employer

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An Ontario organization has been hit with a hefty five-figure fine after two inadequately informed workers were seriously injured in separate accidents.

Late last week, Whitby-based Elite Meats was ordered to pay $82,500 for a series of OHSA failures which resulted in a partial amputation for one employee and multiple amputations for another.

In the first incident, an employee was loading frozen blocks of meat into a grinder but one was too frozen to be drawn into the machine by the rotating feed screw. When the worker pushed down on the block, the meat moved suddenly and the worker's hand was pulled down into the hopper toward the feed screw. As a result the worker suffered a partial amputation.

The subsequent Ministry of Labour investigation found that the machine was not equipped with a guard to prevent access to the rotating feed screw at the time of the incident – contrary to OHSA regulations.

The second incident involved a worker attempting to replace a plug beneath a corkscrew conveyor attached to a meat grinder machine – the corkscrew conveyor was not stopped, turned off or locked out at the time.

Before attempting to replace the plug, the worker tried to clean out the plug hole where ground meat had been exiting – in doing so, the worker's hand made contact with the rotating screw and he suffered amputations.

As well as determining that the corkscrew conveyor was not stopped, turned off or locked out as required, an investigation also found that no written safety procedures for the corkscrew conveyor existed, and the grinder machine operator had not been trained on the proper use and function of the control panel for the corkscrew conveyor.

Ultimately, Elite Meats failed as an employer to ensure that machine was not moving but also it failed to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker on the proper use of machinery.

In addition to the fines, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.

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