$100K fine over safety failure

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WorkSafe New Zealand is warning employers to take action as soon as a risk is identified after one employee was seriously injured on the job.

The worker – who has had his name permanently suppressed – was left with just his thumb and half a forefinger after his hand was dragged into machinery.

“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,” said Brett Murray, WorkSafe’s general manager of operations and specialist services.

“The failure of the Budget Plastics Ltd to take action to this known risk left their employee with a life-long injury,” he continued. “Sadly, it could have been avoided by acting quickly and guarding the machine properly.”

The subsequent WorkSafe investigation also found that Budget Plastics had inadequate systems for identifying and managing risks – their safe operating procedures were outdated, their policies and processes for training staff were lacking, and key safety features such as emergency stop buttons within reach of the operators were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 company appeared in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday as the first organisation to be held accountable under the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

While the judge initially 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 went on to set the fine in the range of $275,000 but later reduced it to a final fine of $100,000 based on the company’s ability to pay. It was also ordered to pay compensation of $37,000 for emotional harm.

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