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Worker injury costs Ont. mushroom farm $75K

A mushroom producer and processor in southern Ontario is out $75,000 for not guarding pinch points on a machine that injured a worker’s arm.

Rol-Land Farms of Blenheim was fined $60,000 plus a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge on Feb. 16 after pleading guilty to an occupational health and safety violation at its plant at Campbellville, about 25 km east of Guelph.

The fine stemmed from a Sept. 23, 2008 incident in which a worker was cleaning large nylon nets with a power washer while a machine wound them onto a spool.

The worker held a net on the spool and started the machine with a portable controller.

The worker’s hand then got caught in a pinch point between the net and the spool, causing the worker to drop the controller, which in turn left the worker unable to stop the machine.

A supervisor answered the worker’s call for help and stopped the machine, but the worker by that point “sustained several arm injuries,” the provincial labour ministry said in a release Friday.

Labour ministry investigators found that the net washing machine “was not equipped with a guard to prevent access to the pinch point.”

Rol-Land pled guilty to “failing to take the reasonable precaution of preventing access to the pinch point to protect the worker,” the ministry said.

Pinch points are formed when two rotating objects move together and at least one of them moves in a circle, such as the point where a belt runs onto a pulley.

According to the Guelph-based Farm Safety Association, farm workers’ fingers, hands and feet can be caught directly by pinch points or drawn into them by loose clothing, or by brushing against or falling against unshielded parts.

“Be aware of the areas where pinch points occur and avoid them,” the association said, adding that workers should wear clothing that fits well and is not loose or floppy. Workers should also never reach over or work near rotating parts.

Shields blocking access to pinch points should always be replaced if they’re removed for maintenance, the association said. Machinery should always be shut off before any maintenance or repair work.

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