Biscuit maker fined for mutilating injury
Gourmet biscuit and condiment manufacturer Meycov Food Limited, trading as Rutherford & Meyer, has been fined $12,500 and ordered to pay reparation of $45,000 after an employee was burnt by a biscuit baking machine on 10 January 2014.
The judge referred to this case as “bad offending” that resulted in a “mutilating injury”. The employee’s arm was caught in the machine for 40 minutes, at a minimum of 85 degrees Celsius to a maximum of 180 degrees Celsius, sustaining severe burns, significant skin loss and subsequent muscle loss.
Meycov Food Limited was sentenced in the Wellington District Court under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of an employee. The starting point for the fine was $70,000 and after appropriate discounts the end fine should have been $35,000. However, due to the company’s poor financial position and the fact that they had 20 employees, the court made the decision to reduce the fine to $12,500.
The employee was cleaning the machine during a cooling down period when her overall got caught, causing her arm to be trapped between a baking plate and part of the machine’s framework. The victim’s arm was trapped in the machine for 40 minutes until the machine was eventually dismantled. An ambulance was only called after 20 minutes and several unsuccessful attempts to remove her arm. She also remained without pain relief for 40 minutes as the ambulance got lost on its way to the address.
The victim has substantial skin-loss to her right forearm and burns to the underlying tissue. She has had three surgeries to remove dead tissue and muscle, as well as major skin-grafting work. She has further surgeries scheduled to transplant muscle to strength her arm.
WorkSafe New Zealand’s investigation discovered that there were no written procedures for cleaning the machine and that the guards on the machine were left open during production and cleaning. The keys to the guard were also left in the machine instead of only being accessible to authorised staff.
“The manufacturer’s guard - the standard guard that came with the machine - was removed in order to enable easier cleaning," says Keith Stewart, WorkSafe New Zealand’s Chief Inspector. “Had the guard been in place, then the victim’s hand would not have been caught and ultimately burnt. Any cleaning should have been done with the baking plate cool and the machine locked out.”