$154K fine for employee fatality

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A South Canterbury-based quarry and transport operator was sentenced earlier this week and ordered to pay significant reparations after pleading guilty to fatal safety failures.

Transport (Waimate) Limited  pleaded guilty to two charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employee Scott Baldwin and failing to ensure that the worker held a current certificate of competence as a quarry manager.

Baldwin was crushed to death while working at the company’s Gordon Valley limestone quarry – he was the only regular employee at the site. His severely injured body was found lying beneath rotating machinery after a neighbour heard motors at the site running at a high pitch and not under load.

“The company failed to identify and manage the clear hazard posed by the quarry machinery,” said WorkSafe New Zealand.

“There were no processes in place to stop maintenance on machinery being carried out while the machinery was running, and there were no effective controls for an operator to stop the top motor in an emergency,” the safety regular continued.
“Also the fact the company never ensured that Mr Baldwin held an appropriate qualification to manage the quarry was a significant failure.”

Ultimately, the organisation was fined $54,000 at sentencing in Timaru District Court and ordered to pay $100,000 to Baldwin’s family.

WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Stewart said there were a number of steps that Transport (Waimate) could have taken to prevent the tragic accident, including installing fixed guarding to make sure people could not reach into dangerous parts of machinery at all times, conducting regular audits for hazard identification, and making sure that Mr Baldwin was not left to work alone and unsupervised.

He said the death should serve as a reminder to employers that horrific accidents can happen when inadequate safety measures are in place.

“Large machinery used on quarries poses an inherent danger to anyone that comes into close contact with it,” stressed Stewart.  “Transport (Waimate) failed to protect its employee, and tragically, in this instance, Mr Baldwin has had to pay the ultimate price for the company’s failings,” he added.

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