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Farm worker's arm trapped in potato harvester

Date of incident: October 2011
Notice of incident number: 2011160530285
Employer: Vegetable farm

Incident summary
A farm worker was retrieving a potato from the moving conveyor of an energized potato harvester when the worker's arm became entangled between the sprocket and the conveyor. The worker was trapped for about an hour before being extricated. This incident resulted in the amputation of the worker's lower left arm.

Investigation conclusions
  • Reaching into energized equipment: A farm worker sustained serious injuries, resulting in a below-the-elbow amputation, when the worker's arm became entangled between an unguarded, energized conveyor and a steel sprocket.
  • Lack of adequate safeguarding: Machines or equipment must be fitted with adequate safeguards to ensure that workers cannot access hazardous points of operation. The potato harvester did not have adequate safeguards to ensure the safety of the injured farm worker.
Underlying factors
  • Ill-fitting gloves worn by the farm worker: Workers at risk of injury from contact with moving parts must wear close-fitting clothing, including properly fitting gloves appropriate for the task. The farm worker was wearing gloves that were too big over a second pair of gloves, which likely made it harder for the worker to free the hand that got caught in the conveyor.
  • Lack of training, instruction, and supervision: The farm worker did not receive any instruction or training on the hazards of reaching into an unguarded conveyor, and of being exposed to an in-running nip point. In addition, the farm worker's employer did not have the training to recognize these hazards and did not know about workplace safety requirements. As a result, the employer could not adequately instruct or supervise workers to ensure their health and safety.
  • Failure to fulfill employer responsibilities: The provincial Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, as well as the Workers Compensation Act, oultine the responsibilities of all employers, including those of small operations. The farm worker's employer did not know about these responsibilities.

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Publication Date: Nov 2011 Asset type: Incident Investigation Report Summary NI number: 2011160530285