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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters



OSH Tracker

Department of Labour v Stevenson Precast Systems Ltd (DC, 06/07/98)

OSH Tracker

Defendant:
Stevenson Precast Systems
Stevenson Precast Systems Ltd was fined $2000 under s6 and $7000 under s13 after an employee suffered severe finger lacerations and lost part of his left hand middle finger while ripping timber. He had been told how to use the circular saw but not how to set it up or what safety devices were required. No push stick was available, nor was there a hood guard or riving knife. Safety intructions were posted on a wall, but the company failed to ensure the worker read, understood and complied with them. (Otahuhu DC, 6 July) 
Industry:
Construction
Sub-Industry:
General Construction
Risk:
Machinery (trapped, crushed, cuts)
Harm:
Injury
Penalty Amount:
$9000.00
Reparation Amount:
$0.00
Appeared in Safeguard issue 52

Judgment Text

SENTENCING NOTES OF JUDGE H.M. SIMPSON 
Judge H.M. Simpson
The Defendant company had pleaded guilty to two charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. 
The first charge under s 6 is that the company being an employer, did fail to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of an employee, namely Mark Reeves, while at work, in that it did fail to take all practicable steps to ensure that he was not exposed to injury while ripping on a circular saw. 
The second charge under s 13(b) is that the company failed to take all practicable steps to ensure that an employee, namely Mark Reeves, while using plant, namely a circular bench saw, in the workplace, was adequately trained in the safe use of that plant. 
In the case of Department of Labour v De Spa certain relevant factors were set out for the consideration of the Court in deciding how to dispose of such prosecutions. These include the degree of culpability, the degree of harm resulting, the financial circumstances of the Defendant company, the attitude of the Defendant company, the fact of a guilty plea, the need for deterrence, the issue of compensation for the victim under s 20(a) of the Criminal Justice Act, the employer's safety record and the facts of the particular case. 
In this particular case the company is in the business of making precast concrete products at premises situated at 13 Neil Park Drive, East Tamaki. It employs approximately 30 people. Mr. Reeves was employed as a labourer and he had training and a licence to use a fork hoist. 
On 27 November 1997 he was working night shift. During that work period he was using a tilt Arbor unit for ripping timber. He had a length of timber which had been pre-cut. It was about 600mm long and he was in effect attempting to round off the corners, using the tilt bench. He did not use the hood which covers the blade, reducing the amount of contact between the blade and the timber; He did not use the riving knife which, when properly adjusted, is designed to prevent the cut closing on the back of the blade, avoiding the piece of wood then worked upon being thrown back at the operator. The saw bench was designed to tilt and for this reason the riving knife and hood sometimes came in contact with the bench when the bench was in the tilted position. 
Mr. Reeves had not been trained in the use of the saw bench. He had no experience in the use of circular saws and while on the night shift he was not closely supervised, although there were 6 employees working on that occasion. He began to use the saw bench in a way for which it was not designed. 
There are a number of dangers with circular saws which require special safety procedures but these were not used on this particular occasion. 
The company did not sufficiently instruct and supervise Mr. Reeves in the use of the saw bench, nor did it provide a suitable push stick to minimise the time that his hands would have been in contact with the timber and thus close to the revolving circular saw blade. 
He suffered injuries to his hand resulting in the amputation of part of a finger, severe lacerations and breaking of bones. He has not been able to return to work since the accident, although he has undergone surgical procedures to rebuild the finger which was partially amputated. It is not clear at this stage whether the surgery has been successful or not. Although he is no longer on antibiotic treatment and is now able to drive a motor vehicle, the motor vehicle itself needs to be modified in order for him to undertake this operation safely. It is also unclear when he will be able to resume work. 
The consequences of the accident have been severe and long lasting in so far as the unfortunate worker was concerned. 
The financial circumstances of the company have not been explained in detail. The company is a relatively small business associated with the Stevenson Group which is a larger company, having a number of outlets. 
A guilty plea was entered at an early date and I accept immediately that the company has put in place procedures to ensure that there will be no repetition of this sort of accident. In particular, the company has employed an assessor to ensure that its safety procedures are understood by all employees. It has reviewed the lengthy Health and Safety manual and it has taken steps to ensure that the workers are sufficiently instructed in health and safety procedure. I accepted this as an indication of the fact that the company has taken a serious attitude to the whole matter and is redesigning its work procedures to ensure that there can be no possible repetition of such a disaster. 
However, these procedures were not in place at the time and it can easily be understood that a high speed revolving blade without safety procedures can, and often does unfortunately, cause injury to the unwary. The person who was using the device on this particular day, was not trained and skilled in the use of the Arbor tilt bench. It was the company procedure at the time for the saw blade to be replaced on a weekly basis. The need for the sharpening and resetting of the saw blade will be a regular occurrence and will need to be done at shorter intervals depending on the amount of work that this particular blade is required to carry out. A system should be put in place to ensure that the equipment is regularly inspected, perhaps on a daily basis, and a decision is made regularly, perhaps once again on a daily basis, as to whether the blade needs to be replaced. 
In my view the prosecution under s 6 of the Health and Safety Act has been properly brought in that the company, by failing to ensure that the machine was safe, failed to ensure that the worker, Mark Reeves, was not exposed to injury while using the machine. In my view, this is a matter where closer supervision and more careful attention to the training of the worker could have avoided this particular accident and this is recognised by the prosecution under s 13(b) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. Mr. Reeves was not adequately trained and that he did not carry out the work on this machine under the supervision of somebody who did know how to use the machine. 
There is a need for deterrence in imposing and calculating the amount of the penalty. 
The defendant company does not have any previous convictions under this legislation. The company does have quite extensive health and safety procedures which are in fact under review at the moment. The existence of a safety manual is not, in itself, sufficient to avoid accidents. It is necessary that the employees be familiar with the relevant portions of the safety manual applying to the sorts of work that they are required to carry out on a daily basis. 
Furthermore, experience shows that employers and supervisors must give constant reminders to the workers in order to ensure that standards are maintained. It is an unfortunate fact of life that as people become familiar with certain operations which are carried out on a daily basis, shortcuts are used, careless methods creep in which can lead to accidents. The purpose of supervision is to avoid such accidents. 
I take the view therefore that it is appropriate to deal with this by way of penalty applied to both informations. On each charge the company will be convicted. 
On the charge under s 13(b) there will be a fine which I fix at $7,000.00. There will be Court costs $130.00. A solicitor's fee of $150.00. There will be an order for payment of half that fine to the complainant. 
In respect of the other charge under s 6 the company will be convicted. There will be a fine which I fix at $2,000.00. There will be costs $130.00. There will be a solicitors fee on the other charge, I will not repeat the solicitor's fee on this one. 
The orders accordingly. 

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