Businesses must immediately take action to manage their known risks – identifying and listing them is not enough, says WorkSafe New Zealand.
This follows the first sentencing under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 of Budget Plastics Ltd for health and safety breaches after a worker’s hand was dragged into a machine while he was pouring recycled plastic into it on 6 April 2016.
Budget Plastics Ltd appeared in the Palmerston North District Court on 23 May 2017 for sentencing, and in a judgment the court fined the company $100,000 and ordered reparation of $37,000.
WorkSafe General Manager Operations and Specialist Services, Brett Murray, says, “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.
“The company identified issues with the guarding on this machine six weeks before the incident, and yet at the time of the incident, nothing had been done to guard, or isolate the machine.”
“The failure of Budget Plastics Ltd to take action to this known risk left their employee with a life-long injury.
“Sadly, it could have been avoided by acting quickly and guarding the machine properly,” said Mr Murray.
The WorkSafe investigation found that the company:
- had inadequate systems for identifying and managing risks
- that their safe operating procedures were outdated
- their policies and processes for training staff were lacking
- and key safety features such as emergency stop buttons within reach of the operators were absent.
The name of the victim is permanently suppressed.
The victim is left with only his thumb and half a forefinger as a result of the incident.
The judge recommended a fine start point of between $400,000 and $600,000 for the level of culpability appropriate for this case.
This was reduced to between $210,000 and $315,000 based on mitigating factors.
The judge set the fine in the range of $275,000 but reduced it to a final fine of $100,000 based on the company’s ability to pay.
The court ordered reparation of $37,500 for emotional harm.
WorkSafe suggested that a starting point of $900,000 was appropriate.
The maximum penalty under the Act is a fine not exceeding $1,500,00.
Budget Plastics was charged under Section 36 (1a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015:
- A PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of —
- workers who work for the PCBU, while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking;
Under the old Health and Safety in Employment Act fines for machine guarding cases ranged from $30,000 to $40,000 on average.