Robot injures worker, plant propagation company fined

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

ST. THOMAS, Ontario – Ontario Plants Propagation Limited, which supplies vegetable plants across North America, pleaded guilty and was fined $55,000 in Ontario provincial court after a worker was critically injured in an incident with a robot.

On October 30, 2017 a worker at the greenhouse operation in St. Thomas, Ont., was critically injured while trying to extricate a broken polystyrene plant tray from a conveyor.

The workplace line includes three gravity roller conveyors side by side, on which polystyrene plant trays are moved. The line also includes a plant transfer robot programmed to place various-sized starter plant plugs into the trays as they move along the conveyors.

On the day of the incident, workers were tasked with retrieving full trays from the line and placing them onto wheeled carts.

One of the workers noticed a broken and dislodged plant tray on the centre conveyor at the load/feed assembly of the plant transfer robot. The worker stepped up on to the frame of the gravity roller conveyor assembly in order to reach the tray. The worker used a 2½-foot homemade grab hook but was unable to reach the tray.

The machine was not locked out and the conveyor continued to move. As such, the worker had to lean into the interior of the robot to reach the tray.

While the worker was leaning in, the robot cycled and moved across the three conveyors, pinning the worker. The worker suffered critical injuries.

The robot had exposed moving parts that endangers the safety of workers.The robot was not equipped with or guarded by a guard or other device that would prevent access to such moving parts.

Section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that every employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. The company failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that where a machine or prime mover or transmission equipment has an exposed moving part that may endanger the safety of any worker, the machine or prime mover or transmission equipment shall be equipped with and guarded by a guard or other device that prevents access to the moving part, contrary to section. This is an offence pursuant to section 66(1) of the act.

The company’s growing operation on John Wise Line, St. Thomas, employs about 100 workers, including foreign agricultural workers. Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act applies, with some limitations and conditions, to all farming operations that have paid workers under the act.

The court also imposed a 25 per cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. The surcharge is credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime.