Faulty hock cutter costs $70,000

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An employee who had two fingers partially amputated in a workplace accident has been awarded $20,000 in emotional harm reparation. The worker was employed by Silver Fern Farms’ Waitoa plant and the company was fined $50,000 at the Morrinsville District Court last week.

The accident occurred early October last year when one employee was working with a hock cutter that developed a fault: the tool could not be isolated from its power source. The employee placed it to the side in a sterilising bath, but when they needed to use the sterilising bath, he hooked the faulty tool over the guard rail behind him.

The victim, concerned for the employee’s safety, attempted to lift the faulty cutter over the guard rail, but it activated as he did so, partially amputating two fingers.

An investigation revealed that the company had failed to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions to ensure its correct operation and the cutter in question also lacked a trigger guard.

“The workers should have been able to isolate the cutter from its power source from the work station, and the cutters should have been tested daily to ensure the correct operation of the dual triggers” Keith Stewart, the health and safety group’s chief inspector of investigations, said.

Silver Fern Farms was charged under Section 6 and Section 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the employee was not exposed to the risk of harm from the cutter.

“This worker has been seriously injured as a result of some very basic failings by Silver Fern Farms,” Stewart said. “He had the right to arrive at work knowing everything had been done to protect him, and it hadn’t,” he added.

Stewart hoped that the fine and reparation would serve as a warning to all employers that they must look after the safety of employees at work.

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