In a reserved decision released today, Prepared Produce Limited was fined $196,406.25 for six offences and ordered to pay $57,000 in reparation to three victims.
The fruit and vegetable processor pleaded guilty to three charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to keep workers safe. They also pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to notify WorkSafe New Zealand of an occurrence of serious harm. They were sentenced in the Manukau District Court.
The three incidents occurred over a period of 18 months and all involved amputations while operating belt slicer machines. The first incident occurred on 26 July 2013 when a worker had his right middle finger and the tip of his ring finger cut off.
The second incident happened on 9 November 2014 when a worker suffered a partial amputation of his right ring, middle and index fingers. The third incident occurred on 22 November 2014 when an employee had his right index and middle fingers sliced off.
On all three occasions, Prepared Produce Limited failed to notify the workplace health and safety regulator. Instead WorkSafe only became aware after the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union made a complaint in December 2014.
All three victims have been substantially affected by the incidents – both physically and emotionally. They find it hard to work; they struggle to hold objects in their hands; they suffer serious pain from their injuries and their relationships with families and friends are strained.
In the decision, the Court found that an inadequately guarded belt slicer poses an obvious risk to employees. Following the first accident, Prepared Produce Limited should have been put on notice and responded appropriately.
WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says that had the regulator been notified of the first incident, the other two could have been prevented. “It is a requirement under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to notify WorkSafe of any serious harm occurrence. By putting in place a few key steps, these disabling injuries could have been stopped.”