A Queenstown eatery has been ordered to compensate one of its former employees after he was seriously injured in a workplace accident.
Miller Foods Limited, trading as Remarkable Tortillas, was sentenced in the Queenstown District Court yesterday over an incident which saw a teenage employee lose three of his fingers.
The worker, Daniel Figueroa, was using a commercial tortilla press and oven when a tortilla became stuck. Following what he had previously been taught, Figueroa removed guarding from the machine and reached in to dislodge the stuck tortilla with a spatula.
However, the spatula also became stuck in the conveyor slats so Figueroa donned heat resistant gloves and reached in to retrieve both the tortilla and spatula. His glove then became caught and Figueroa’s right hand and arm were drawn into the oven.
As a result of the accident, Figueroa suffered severe burns and crush injuries. He also underwent multiple surgeries and had three of his fingers amputated.
WorkSafe’s subsequent investigation found that Remarkable Tortillas had inadequate health and safety systems, failed to ensure a risk assessment of the machinery was carried out, failed to provide suitable guarding, and failed to ensure that workers were adequately trained and were aware of an appropriate emergency system.
“This was a piece of machinery loaded with risks,” said Simon Humphries, WorkSafe’s deputy general manager of investigations and specialist services.
“The gas burners, the moving conveyer belt and the inadequate machine guarding all contributed to an incident that was entirely avoidable,” he continued. “Tortillas getting jammed was a known issue but there was no safe system in place for managing the problem”.
Ultimately, Remarkable Tortillas was ordered to pay Figueroa reparation of $52,282 – however, the court chose not to impose a fine, suppressing the reasons why. The court did note that, had a fine been imposed, it would have been $337,500.