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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Under-staffing key factor

Under-staffing key factor
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New Zealand

Having only three staff on duty instead of the usual four - a situation which had become routine - was a key factor in the injury of a man during a timber packet stacking process at a sawmill in Tangiwai.

Winstone Pulp International Ltd was fined $55,500 for a breach of s6 of the HSE Act and ordered to pay reparation of $10,000 to its injured employee (Taihape DC, 10 August).

The November 2011 incident occurred in part of the sawmill called the packet stacker, which is situated in its own building. The usual staffing is four: one person sits well above the operation at a control panel and cannot see what happens at ground level, while another keeps magazines of pallets full. At ground level, a third person operates a forklift to place cut timber for stacking on an in-feed deck at one end of the pallet stacker. The fourth person operates the out-feed deck and straps completed pallets for the forklift operator to take away.

The injured man, Mr Cribb, was working as both forklift operator and on the out-feed deck, leaving only two other staff with him - a situation which the company later acknowledged had become relatively routine.

The pallet extractor had as usual been set to automatic. One packet was already hard up against the stops at the end of the stacker. Cribb manually advanced two other packets to approach the one at the end. He was standing between the end packet and the other two when a fourth packet emerged and all of them moved automatically towards the one at the end, crushing him.

Each packet was about six metres in length, a metre wide, and 1.8m high, and weighed about six tonnes.
His injuries included a broken clavicle, a cracked rib and extensive bruising over much of his body. He developed a heart murmur as a consequence, but that later ceased. He was unable to walk or sleep properly for three weeks, and returned to work on light duties after three and a half months.

The (then) Department of Labour identified four key failings, the first being inadequate staffing. If the fourth person had been present he or she could have ensured there was sufficient time or space between the packets, and overridden the automatic controls if necessary. The forklift operator - Cribb - would have been able to remain on his forklift and would not have been exposed to the crushing hazard.

The second failing was that the packet stacker was set permanently on automatic, meaning it was difficult to intervene in the system. The company installed a deadman control so that packets would only move along the in-feed under the control of an operator.

The third failing was inadequate training: Cribb had not been trained how to work on the out-feed deck, he had simply learned by watching others and had not been warned against standing between packets.

Fourth and last, the DoL said the company's hazard identification methods were inadequate because no one had realised that running the process under reduced staffing had created danger.

Organisations Mentioned:
Winstone Pulp International Ltd
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From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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