Silver Fern Farms Limited fined – worker’s fingers partially amputated
An employee of Silver Fern Farms’ Waitoa plant near Te Aroha has been awarded $20,000 in emotional harm reparation after two of his fingers were partially amputated in a workplace accident.
At the Morrinsville District Court this week, the company was also fined $50,000.
In early October last year, an employee was working with a hock cutter which developed a fault. The tool could not be isolated from its power source at the workstation so it was placed to one side in a sterilising bath pending maintenance. However the employee then needed to use the sterilising bath while working with a replacement manual cutter, so he hooked the faulty tool over the guard rail behind him. The victim, concerned for the safety of that employee, attempted to lift the faulty cutter over the guard rail. As he moved it, the cutter activated, partially amputating his two fingers.
An investigation revealed the company had failed to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions to ensure correct operation of the dual triggers prior to use each day. The cutters were designed to require two separate triggers to be depressed within half a second of each other before the cutter would activate.
When the Health and Safety Inspector tested the plant’s three cutters, they all activated despite a significant delay between pressing the two triggers. There was also no trigger guard on the pistol grip trigger of the cutter that was in use on the day of the accident.
“This worker has been seriously injured as a result of some very basic failings by Silver Fern Farms,” the Health and Safety Group’s Chief Inspector Investigations, Keith Stewart said.
“He had the right to arrive at work knowing everything had been done to protect him, and it hadn’t
“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.
“Silver Fern Farms’ plant operates dangerous machinery – the hazards are obvious and so are the controls. The fine and reparation in this case should serve as a warning to all employers that they must look after the safety of employees at work,” Mr Stewart 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.