JBS meat processing fined after 19-year-old employee falls into tripe washing vat

Australia’s largest meat processing company has been fined $150,000 over a workplace incident that left a Tasmanian worker with burns to the lower half of his body and ongoing psychological impacts.

John Kiriona-Hodge was 19 when he slipped and fell into a tub of near-boiling tripe washing water at JBS Australia’s Longford abattoir in November 2016.

Today — four years on from the incident — Mr Kiriona-Hodge sat in the Magistrates Court in Launceston as his former employer was convicted of workplace safety breaches and sentenced.

The company had pleaded guilty to failing to comply with its health safety duty and breaching its duty to consult workers following the incident and faced a maximum penalty of $1.6 million.

JBS had also previously been charged with reckless conduct over the incident, but was found not guilty of that offence after a hearing in 2019.

The JBS abattoir in Longford, where the incident happened in 2016.(ABC News)

Magistrate Simon Brown said Mr Kiriona-Hodge was one of a number of workers who serviced a tripe cooker at the abattoir back in 2016.

He said the tripe — the lining of a cow’s stomach — was rinsed in a wash tub and then lifted into a raised basket. From there, it would be tipped into a tripe cooker.

But the court heard the tripe often got stuck in the basket, as the company had switched from using bleach to wash it, to hot water.

“This was not a problem prior to May 2016 as the tripe was washed in bleach … that stopped it from sticking,” Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown said JBS provided workers with a 30-centimetre step and a metal pole to help free the tripe in the basket, but that method was often unsuccessful.

The court heard on the day of Mr Kiriona-Hodge’s incident, November 23, 2016, he had stepped onto the side of the wash tub and used his hands to try and remove the sticking tripe.

While doing that, he slipped and fell into the water that was heated to around 80 degrees.

He received second and third degree burns to his lower legs and feet.

In sentencing JBS, Mr Brown said the action Mr Kiriona-Hodge took to un-stick the tripe was an “obvious one” and was often used by other staff.

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