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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters



Safeguard Magazine

From the courts

BRIEFS

MAINFREIGHT LTD was fined $32,500 with reparation of $6000 after an employee at its Palmerston North depot was struck by an unsecured 152kg pallet while he was helping release the curtain from a curtain-sided railway wagon. He suffered bruised spinal nerves and initially lost feeling from the neck down, but regained feeling later that day (Palmerston North DC, 18 December 2015).

W CRIGHTON & SON LTD was fined $44,500 under s6 after an employee’s glove became caught in an unguarded chain as he was clearing sawdust. His hand was dragged between the moving chain and a sprocket, and no emergency stop button was within reach. He lost three fingers and part of a thumb (Levin DC, 10 February 2016).

NZ SCHOOL OF OUTDOOR STUDIES LTD was fined $53,625 under s16 and ordered to pay $125,000 in reparation to the family of a Malaysian student who died in a dive incident in a lake in Huntly in 2014, and a further $26,000 towards their costs. Self-employed dive instructor TONY TE RIPO was fined $10,000 for breach of s17. The victim was one of eight Malaysian students on a dive course. None of them was able to complete a 200m proof of competence swim in the lake yet they were permitted to proceed to a first dive at a time of low water visibility (Hamilton DC, 29 February 2016).

PREPARED PRODUCE LTD pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to protect workers and three of failing to notify serious harm after three similar injury incidents in the space of 16 months, all to do with machine guarding failures resulting in contact with rotating blades. It was fined a total of $196,406 and ordered to pay reparations of $57,000 (Manukau DC, 3 March 2016).

STEELCON CONSTRUCTION LTD was fined $56,000 with reparation of $121,320 after an employee died in a trench collapse on a farm near Matamata in May 2014. About five cubic metres of soil weighing eight tonnes buried him. The 4m-deep trench had been cut with vertical sides instead of being battered, and had not been shored up. No geotech assessment of the site had been carried out to check soil stability. The firm’s director RODNEY BISHOP was charged with a breach of s6 and s 56 of the HSE Act taken under s49, the rarely used “knowledge” provision. He was sentenced to four months home detention (Hamilton DC, 22 March 2016). This is only the second time a custodial sentence has been imposed for a breach of the HSE Act.

ENVIROWASTE SERVICES LTD was fined $66,000 with reparation of $85,000 after the employee of a contractor was fatally crushed between the bin lifter and the centre pod of a glass collection truck in Wellington. The company had been involved in the design of the bin lifting mechanism on this and other trucks in its fleet. The semi-automatic function exposed the operator and passers-by to a crushing hazard. Employees had reported issues with the bins stalling in mid-air but no action had been taken. Also, the victim had not been trained in line with the company’s policy (Wellington DC, 23 March 2016).

JOHN AUSTIN LTD was fined $36,750 with reparations of $65,554 after a mechanic at a farm near Morrinsville was crushed by an inadequately secured nine-tonne truck hoist while servicing one of the company’s fleet of 80 heavy vehicles. He spent several months in hospital and is unlikely to regain full use of one leg. The company should have had procedures for working on a raised truck hoist and communicated them to staff, and provided training on repair of hydraulic truck systems (Te Awamutu DC, 18 April 2016).

BLAME THE WORKER DEFENCE FAILS

A defence based on blaming the injured worker for his own misfortune failed to persuade the court, AFFCO NEW ZEALAND LTD instead being found to have failed to check its procedures were being followed. The company was fined $30,000 with reparations of $25,000 (Tauranga DC, 20 April 2016).

In the August 2014 incident at the Rangiuru plant, a night cleaner’s head was impaled by a prong of a moving suspended spreader hook, which entered his head above and behind his left ear, with the hook protruding just to the left of his left eye.

He was carried, suspended, for a short distance before his colleagues hit the stop button and supported his weight while the hook was disassembled and he could be taken away for treatment.

The cleaner, J, survived the incident without permanent physical injury but suffered emotional harm from the experience.

The suspended hook was relatively blunt. However immediately down-chain from the drip tray he was standing on was a fixed rectangular box frame which had previously held a scanner device. The court found that J’s head had come into crush contact with the scanner frame, and that this caused such a degree of resistance while his head was forced through the gap between the hook and the frame that the hook’s prong had penetrated his head.

The defence argued that J admitted he should not have been standing on the drip tray; that having chains move during cleaning was reasonable industry practice at the time; and that the scanner frame had never been identified as a crush hazard by anyone, including external safety auditors and the plant’s own H&S representatives.

The court found the plant’s manual – given to all staff during induction – included the requirement to lock out machinery during repairs, maintenance and cleaning. The plant manager acknowledged that cleaning with the chain moving was inconsistent with the plant’s documented procedure. He also conceded that despite the training in safe procedures given to all staff, there were no checks – scheduled or random – to ensure safe practice was being observed.

The court found the machinery should have been locked out, as per company procedure, and the company’s training and monitoring that health and safety protocols were being observed was inadequate.

Thomson Reuters

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