Occupational health and safety is a very important topic in any work place, because of its relevance in ensuring that the company or the employer provides a safe environment for the workforce. This also forms part of an organisation’s corporate responsibility and it also has a bearing on employee’s turnover, organisation production capacity and thus the financial situation of the organisation. Occupational health and safety guidelines are important because they acknowledge that some working conditions can be quite dangerous or fatal to the workers as they are subject to some of the workplace accidents that render employees injured, dead or exposed to hazardous diseases (Worksafe Victoria 2007).
With reference to the risks caused by working conditions, this report is going to dwell on a fatal workplace accident that occurred on April 2006 on the premises of the Foster’s Abbotsford brewery in Melbourne. This report is going to highlight on the factors that contributed to the occurrence of the accident, measures that would have prevented the occurrence of the accident, the court’s ruling and its implication to the company and the family and the ethical and moral issues that emerged.
Cuu Hyunh Accident
This case involved the death of a 58 years old man known as Cuu Huynh (McKinnon 2010). According to the County Court of Victoria (2011), the main factors that contributed to this tragedy revolved around the negligence of the brewer’s management team to ensure that the working conditions within their plants were safe. The plant in question involves a depalletiser (B1B) fitted with steel doors that bump against metallic handrails that are controlled by photoelectric sensors. The main purpose of this machine is to prepare bottles for filling.
However, the machine had some shortcomings that the management team was well aware of since 2002. The shortcomings included; lack of indicators that marked the dangerous zones of the plant, unguarded areas that were prone to trap workers, lack of machines emergency stops and the adjacency of the machine to the handrail thus, exposing workers to the risk of being crushed. Among other factors noted included; the disregard for workforce safety by the management team that was adamant on allowing workers to conduct maintenance and repair services to the various components of the machine while the machine was still running (County Court of Victoria 2011),
On this fateful day, Cuu Huynh was working in the operating area of the B1B depalletiser repairing a faulty photoelectric sensor reflector. Since the machine was running at the time Cuu Huynh was working, because of lack of warning signs, Cuu head was jammed between the door of the depalletiser and the adjacent handrail (McKinnon 2010). Due to the fact that these two components were made of heavy metal, Cuu neck was severely crushed. As a result, Cuu lost consciousness and was admitted at the Alfred hospital where he was put under the life support system. He later succumbed to death six days after the occurrence of the accident (Collins 2008).
Recommendations as Per the Hazard Management Process
According to Safety Services Australia (2010) the Foster’s company was well aware of the dangerous circumstances surrounding the operations of the Depalletiser. Further, Hannan (2008), reports that in 2002 the company had witnessed a similar incident within the same plant but with a different depalletiser (B1A). Following the 2002 accident, B1A depalletiser was upgraded with control measures that reduced its crash risk to very low rates. Worksafe Victoria (2008b) reported that an engineer’s report on the operations of Abbotsford brewery recommended that the crush risks of the B1B depalletiser were very high and that control measures that include warning signs should be installed into the depalletiser to make it safer for the workers.
In view of the recommendation report, the company should have committed itself to meet the guidelines of the recommendation report to safe guide the safety and welfare of its workforce. In addition, the company could have avoided such an incident by shutting down the system while Cuu was working. This could have slowed down their production process but at the same time it could have prevented the death of Cuu or any other member of the staff working within the perimeter of the machine (Worksafe Victoria 2008a).
To avoid Cuu accident, the company should have been more aggressive in applying the safety and hazardous measures that are in accordance with safety occupational health. The first step towards achieving this could have been identifying the problem at hand and acknowledging its risk factors and their implications to the health and welfare of the workforce. Some of the hazards that they could have identified before the occurrence of this fatal accident include the mechanical hazards of the depalletiser (Worksafe Victoria 2007).
After identifying the mechanical hazards of the depalletiser, the company through a rigorous analysis of the impacts or effects of the hazard would have come up with a list of all the possible dangers. This calls for the company to conduct risk assessments on all the components of their machines. The results of the risk assessments could have helped to prevent the occurrence of the accident because it could have indicated the nature of injuries expected, the causes of death and the number of people that are likely to have been affected by the crashing impact of the depalletiser door and the adjacent handrails (Worksafe Victoria 2007).
After identifying all the faulty factors of the machine and the risks associated with the same, the company could have come up with a number of control measures that are in line with the required safety standards in the work place. This would include implementing safety, measures such as switching of the depalletiser when an employee was repairing or working within the perimeter of the identified risk areas. Putting up warning signs that are audio or visual would also help prevent the occurrence of the accident as the operators would take precautions to ensure that no one was within the perimeter of the risk area. Further, occupational health training to the workers would have made them more aware of their working conditions, areas that needed supervision while working and what to do in case they were faced with dangers in the their respective work stations(MinterEllison 2008).
Further, to ensure that the control measures are performing as per the expectations of the company, it would have been appropriate for the company management team and the supervisors to monitor the progress. This would have been done by regularly inspecting the working conditions of the control measures such as the warning signs and the equipment that convey the warning messages. This also would have included following up on employees reports with regards to the functioning of the control measures and their adaptability to the same (Worksafe Victoria 2007).
To prevent a similar incident from occurring, it would have been important for the company to keep data on all the information gathered about the functioning and maintenance of the palletizer and all the control measures. The last recommendation with regards to this case would have been ensuring an annual review of the control measures. According to Hopwood and Thompson (2006) this serves to cater for the control measures that are not adequate and for the hazardous situations that are prone to change with time.
Courts Ruling and its Implications
Following this case, the Foster’s pleaded guilty to the offences of failure to provide safe working conditions for their workers and failure to provide safety information to their works. As a result judge Campton fined the company $1,125 million (Australian FoodNews 2007). Considering that the company was well aware of the dangerous conditions surrounding this particular machine, am inclined to argue that the judge should have imposed a much larger fine to discourage such conducts. Further, following the information that a similar incident had occurred sometime back, I think that the judge was very lenient with the company (Worksafe Victoria 2008a).
The fact that the judge convicted the company and not a specific individual is a rather painful ordeal to the family members. Because, they have to endure the pain of living without their beloved Cuu Huynh, who was a husband and a father providing for his family. Therefore, the punishment in form of monetary terms can only help the family supplement Cuu earnings but not replace him. Thus, I consider this accident as negligence of the highest order and the company should have been punished severely to counter their actions. And as such, this was not a fair verdict.
Emerging Ethical and Moral Issues
After a thorough review of this case, various ethical and moral issues emerged. Foster’s negligence indicated that they had no regard for human life and that the company did not put into consideration the consequences of their ignorance. It also comes out clearly that the company had no regard for the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 2004 that calls for employers to ensure that all their employees work under safe environments. Ensuring the safety and welfare of employees is part of the corporate social responsibility that in this case was neglected. Other ethical issues highlighted in this case include the reluctance of the court to hold the managers of the company criminally liable for the death of Cuu Hyunh (Hopwood &Thompson 2006).
Cuu Hyunh death was fatal and could have been prevented if all the necessary measures that appertain to occupational health laws were adhered to. This case is a clear example of the extent to which some employers have little or no regard for employee’s welfare and health, laws on occupation and accountability. To prevent and reduce the occurrence of such incidents, employers must identify risks, conduct risk assessments and put in place control measures that are monitored and reviewed regularly.
Australian FoodNews 2007, Foster’s receives record fine for fatal safety breaches. Web.
Collins, S 2008, Foster’s fined $ 1.125m over worker’s death, the age.
County Court of Victoria 2011, R v Foster’s Australia  VCC 902. Web.
Hannan, E 2008, Foster’s fined $1.1m after work death, the Australian. Web.
Hopwood, D & Thompson, S 2006, Workplace safety: a guide for small and midsized companies, John Wiley and Sons, New York.
McKinnon, T 2010, The Value of Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace. A Brewery Experience.Web.
MinterEllison 2008, Record fine in brewery fatality.Web.
Safety Services Australia 2010, OH&S and risk management. Web.
Worksafe Victoria 2007, Controlling OHS hazards and risks – a workplace handbook – WorkSafe Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria.
Worksafe Victoria 2008, Brewer pleads guilty to workplace safety charges. Web.
Worksafe Victoria 2008, Prosecution results summary.