It’s finally happened, the first prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. See: NZ Herald: Company fined $138,500 after worker’s hand severed and WorkSafe NZ Take immediate action to manage known risks of entrapment.
- Budget Plastics Ltd, in Palmerston North was $138,500 after a worker’s hand was partially amputated when it was caught in a plastic extrusion machine.
- April 6, 2016, the worker was standing on a wooden pallet feeding waste plastic into the extrusion machine. Some scraps were left in the bottom and he attempted to empty those by lifting the whole bag and tipping it into the hopper
- The bag caught in the auger at the bottom of the hopper and the worker was dragged into it. He became entangled in the bag, lost his balance and his left hand was dragged into the auger
- The on/off switch and control panel were both some 2m from where the victim was standing. Another worker saw what was happening and was able to turn the machine off and come to the workers’s aid.
- The worker suffered horrific injuries to his hand, which was partially amputated, he has been left with only his thumb and half a forefinger as a result of the incident
What did WorksafeNZ Safe?
WorkSafe General Manager Operations and Specialist Services, Brett Murray, said, “The lesson here is to fix machinery as soon as risks are identified. If you can’t fix it, then take it out of service until it is safe to use.”
- Guarding & Lockout: To prevent operators reaching into moving parts
- Emergency Stop: To be within the operators reach
- Hazards had been identified by an HSE Professional: Hazards associated with the extrusion machine had been identified and ‘were in the process of being rectified’.
What did the Court Say?
- Judge Jim Large said the incident had been foreseeable. “[T]here was an obvious risk of amputation to those using the machine. The victim partially severed his hand. There was potential for a more severe injury.”
- An affidavit from a chartered accountant found that anything more than a fine of $100,000 would cause significant difficulties for the business.
- Judge Large said the case was not so severe as to justify a departure from the need to impose a fine within the company’s ability to pay and fixed it at $100,000, along with the reparation and costs.
Reparation to Victim $37,500
Costs to WorksafeNZ $1000
- Companies can be fined up to $1.5 million as opposed to $250,000 under the previous act. Under the old Health and Safety in Employment Act fines for machine guarding cases ranged from $30,000 to $40,000 on average.
- Check for Entanglement Hazards: Make sure your workers have their hair tied back, are not wearing loose fitting clothing or dangling jewelry.
- E Stops: If you work with machinery that has emergency stops:
1. Check that E Stops are within the operators reach
2. Check that everyone knows where they are
3. Do a test to see they are working
- Guarding and Interlocks: Check that all machines have guarding over moving parts and interlocks that mean the plant shuts down if they are breached. If you are not sure seek advice!
- Disciplinary Process: If any worker is found ‘tutuing’ with E Stops, machine guarding or interlocks a disciplinary procedure needs to be conducted.
Have a safe and productive week,