As Director of TEG Risk I want to use this platform to highlight an issue that has become all too common in today’s media – avoidable workplace injuries. This particular workplace injury at Dunlop Drymix Limited in Feilding which resulted in amputation is particularly disturbing.   At TEG Risk I lead a team of machine safety experts, deeply committed to ensuring workplace safety. It is disheartening to witness preventable safety incidents, such as this one, persisting in workplaces across Australasia. My intention here is to provide commentary and a better understanding of the safety context in an effort to prevent such incidents occurring again. This commentary will emphasise the importance of comprehensive risk assessments, adequate safeguarding measures, and the significance of proper training to save lives.

Tragic Workplace Incident At Dunlop Drymix Limited 

In a tragic incident at a concrete manufacturer in the Manawatū, a worker suffered an arm amputation while on the job. The incident occurred at Dunlop Drymix Limited in Feilding in the early hours of a November morning in 2021. The victim, while engaged in cleaning a conveyor belt, reached down to retrieve a dropped tool. Unfortunately, during this process, his right arm became ensnared by the conveyor belt’s rollers, subsequently pulling him deeper into the machinery. At the time of the incident, the victim was working alone and had to leave the area in search of assistance. Regrettably, surgeons were unable to reattach his arm.

Following an investigation by WorkSafe, it was revealed that the conveyor’s off switch was located in a separate warehouse, and its emergency stop switch was disconnected and non-functional. Additionally, Dunlop Drymix lacked a standard operating procedure for machine cleaning, conducted inadequate risk assessments, and failed to provide proper training to their staff on safe cleaning procedures. As a consequence of these health and safety shortcomings, the company has been sentenced for its failure to ensure a safe work environment.

Workplace Incidents Such As These Are Preventable 

It is frustrating to read of these accidents, as they are preventable and continue to occur. Risk assessments, proper safeguarding and appropriate training saves limbs and lives. In fact, this employee was lucky to only lose an arm. There is a whole annex at the back of the AS/NZS Standard For Conveyors listing examples of fatalities on these types of conveyors – they represent fatal consequence risks.

Conveyors And Cleaning, A Dangerous Combination

As can be evidenced by the incident outlined above, conveyors can be very hazardous. This is especially so for bulk material conveyors that may be used in mining, quarrying and concrete/asphalt manufacturing. 

Cleaning of conveyors is also a key risk area. Whether it’s in food manufacturing where conveyors need to be deep cleaned for hygiene purposes or as above with concrete plants when hardened materials or debris need to be removed. In both cases, individuals must get close to the hazards to effectively clean the machines. However the PCBU’s responsibility is to make sure that workers are safe at all times, no matter what onsite task they are carrying out. The machine should be made safe through guarding, so that maintenance and cleaning can be carried out without risk of injury. This is a key risk area that was overlooked at Dunlop Drymix, and the result of ignoring this simple safety requirement was devastating. 

Effective Fixed Guarding Is Required

Effective fixed guarding is required to prevent access to nip and draw hazards while the conveyor/belt is running. Nip point hazards are a common occurrence in nearly all machinery that rotates or reciprocates. These hazards emerge whenever two neighbouring machine components approach each other, posing a risk of entrapment or the drawing-in of external objects, such as body parts, loose clothing, or hair. This was the key issue in this incident at Dunlop Dymix. Fixed guards are essential for safety on conveyor belts. They serve as physical barricades, preventing individuals from accessing hazardous zones during typical operations, maintenance, or cleaning. Fixed guards can fall into two categories:

Permanent guards: These are either welded directly onto or integrated into the machine’s structure.

Removable guards: However, these can only be taken off when the machine is not in operation, requiring a specialised tool that is not readily accessible to operators. It’s essential to avoid using fasteners like wing nuts or wedge inserts that can be easily undone by hand. It should be noted that if these guards need to be removed frequently, they may also need interlocks (safety switches that stop the machine when activated). 

A Lock Out Strategy Is Essential 

Lock out procedures require de-energising machinery and affixing a physical lock out device to a designated lock out point, such as a disconnect switch, isolator switch, or circuit breaker. Lock out devices can encompass padlocks, chains, and hasps, and it is possible to employ multiple lock out devices to secure the machinery. In this workplace incident it was revealed that the conveyor’s off switch was located in a separate warehouse, and its emergency stop switch was disconnected and non-functional. This lack of appropriate Lock Out Strategy increased the severity of the injuries experienced by the employee – resulting in him losing an arm.

Employers must locate isolators in the right place to facilitate quick and easy LOTO (lock out tag out). Doing so can prevent injury, or avoid the exacerbation of injuries. Employers must also have good procedures in place to ensure LOTO is carried out correctly. In some instances such as food processing (with critical hygiene risks), machinery requires frequent cleaning, and interlocks may be needed to reduce the risk of LOTO not being followed as prescribed. Interlocks are instruments that ensure one aspect of a process remains inactive unless another component is operational. It acts as a safeguard, like a switch, which halts the operation of a piece of equipment in the presence of a hazard.

An emergency stop is another helpful device (e-stop). Worksafe defines an e-stop as a device installed on or next to a machine to bring it to a stop when other control measures fail. It could be a button, grab wire or foot pedal. These are an excellent risk mitigation measure for conveyors, and we advise our clients to make sure to have enough of them and place them in the right areas. At Dunlop Drymix the lack of such a button, in working order, within arm’s reach of the operator could have saved his arm. A lanyard can be a great way to have an e-stop device located within reach all along the conveyor.

The Need For Risk Assessments, and Proper Training

Underpinning all of these safety considerations is the need for expert advice in the form of risk assessments and proper training. 

I can’t stress enough the importance of organising a risk assessment with a reputable health and safety engineer. Don’t put a critical task like this off until next year. And don’t wait until the budget allows for a full safety overhaul. 

Our advice at TEG Risk is to do everything possible to improve safety at your facility (often a fix can be quite simple and very cost effective). If building out your safety programmes incrementally as budget allows is your only option – then do it that way – something is better than nothing. As this incident shows – delaying key safety considerations puts workers lives and livelihoods at risk. Seek expert support to ensure that you’re prioritising high risk machinery. 

Training your team is also key to safety success. As well as showing potential safety hazards, a risk assessment can highlight areas of required training, to make sure that the operators who are interacting with the machinery and safeguards, are doing so in a safe manner. At TEG Risk our training is bespoke and delivered based on our client’s unique requirements and can also cover essential safety training for managers. 

I’m passionate about keeping workers safe onsite, as is everyone on the TEG Risk team. We want to help businesses avoid the classic safety pitfalls. We hate to see safety issues highlighted in the media like this one. Please don’t make the same mistakes as Dunlop Drymix – reach out today. Please feel free to contact me directly at