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The Case of the Little Rippa Chippa

I have had the privilege of training a number of Councils recently and those experiences prompted me to reflect on a tragic example of how, just by doing the simple things, you can make a profound difference to someone’s life.

The case of the Little Rippa Chippa is a good reminder that the basics matter and, in this complex world of ours, still make a big difference.

On 4 May 1997, Peter Bell, a casual labourer employed by a regional NSW Council was operating the Little Rippa Chippa (a mobile wood chipping machine) at a Waste Transfer Station operated by the Council.

The machine had been purchased 2 months before and training on its safe operation was provided to Council personnel.

Mr Bell did not attend the training.

On the day of the accident, a Sunday, Mr Bell started to use the wood chipper. He was wearing new boots and ear muffs.

His Supervisor was undertaking other duties about 50 metres away.

For 15-20 minutes he operated the machine without difficulty. He then went to put in some large privet branches which necessitated he lift the roller by placing his knee on the knee bar.

Pursuant to how he was allegedly shown, he used his foot instead which was also easier due to his height.

Unfortunately his foot became jammed whilst feeding a large branch into the chute and his left glove became caught on the branch and was drawn into the rollers.

The gloves were too big for his hands.

The distance from the chute to the in feed roller was insufficient and allowed the operator to reach the feed roller.

He instinctively put his right hand into the chute to help extricate his left hand. Both arms went into the chute. Somehow he managed to free his right foot and extricate himself from the machine.

Mr Bell lost his left arm to just below the shoulder and his right arm to just above his elbow. One can only imagine the impact these injuries have had on him and his family over the past 20 years…

The lessons learned are still completely relevant today.:
• Design Safety
• Good Procurement
• Training
• Safe Working Methods
• Supervision
• PPE

The basics – affording multiple people multiple chances to save this worker.

It can feel very unrewarding at times when you don’t see the fruits of your labour, but this case is a good reminder to maintain a deliberate focus on the safety basics.

You never know who you might save.

To find out more about our Mock Court Programs, please give us a call on  1800 85 86 98 or contact us via our website today.

Written by Bruce Whitehead

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