Mushroom grower fined $90,000 after worker pulled into conveyor

Worker walked in front of the conveyor, slipped on some wet compost on the ground and fell

Mushroom grower fined $90,000 after worker pulled into conveyor

Highline Produce has been fined a total of $112,500 after a worker suffered critical injuries when they were caught and dragged into a conveyor. The company was fined $90,000 plus a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge of $22,500.

On Sept. 20, 2018, a worker was working as part of the clean-up crew in the mushroom-growing facility's spawn area in Wellington, Ont. The worker was washing down the concrete ramp to the spawn area's overhead door and was called over to work on cleaning up the compost which had been knocked off the green feed hopper onto the concrete pad below.

The green feed conveyor is located outside the spawn area buildings. This equipment feeds the green compost up into the spawn area for production. It is an angled conveyor and hopper, which consists of chain-driven cross bars and a fixed flat pan conveyor. The bars move up the flat pan, dragging material to the top.

The worker began to assist the lead hand by cleaning the compost from under and around the conveyor, which was stationary at the time. While this work was being performed, the lead hand went to the control panel, removed the lock and started the conveyor, which began to move. 

The worker started to walk in front of the conveyor, slipped on some wet compost on the ground and fell. The worker reached out and grabbed one of the conveyor bars to try to stop the fall. In so doing, the worker was caught in the bars of the moving conveyor, and was being dragged up and into the conveyor. No guards were in place to prevent the worker from being pulled into the moving conveyor.

As a result of being caught and dragged, the worker suffered multiple critical injuries.

Section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that "an employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker at a workplace." Highline failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that the green feed conveyor/hopper was locked out while it and the area around it were being cleaned, contrary to section 25(2)(h) of the act. This is an offence pursuant to section 66(1) of the act.

Source: Ontario Ministry of Labour