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Companies ordered to pay over $120K after contractor seriously injured by fish de-heading machine
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Companies ordered to pay over $120K after contractor seriously injured by fish de-heading machine

3 June 2016

Two companies have been ordered to pay reparations of $30,126 to a worker who was left with serious injuries after his arm was cut by a fish de-heading machine.

On-hire labour company AWF Limited (AWF) and Sanford Limited (Sanford) were fined $37,750 and $53,000 respectively and ordered to pay reparations of $15,063 each after pleading guilty to charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of the worker.

The sentencing took place at the Invercargill District Court yesterday.

On June 4 2015 the AWF employee, who was contracted through his employer to work as a chiller hand at Sanford, was preparing to clean up at the Sanford Bluff fish processing factory.

The worker noticed a fish head lodged in the manual fish de-header machine and reached into the machine to try and remove it. In the process he inadvertently turned on the machine, causing the machine’s blade to come down and cut his right forearm, slicing through muscles, an artery and tendons.

The worker received four fractures to his arm and had a plate in his arm until April this year.

A WorkSafe investigation found that AWF failed to ensure its own policy was followed by not completing a site visit to identify any “high risk” hazards before the on-hire employee started work. The company did not request a detailed job description for the worker’s role and did not carry out adequate assessments of the workplace and the work processes that the worker would be subject to.

It was also revealed that Sanford, as the principal, failed to manage the hazard posed by the inadequately guarded blade, and did not provide supervision or clear instructions to on-hire personnel including the victim. Before the incident occurred, a third party had conducted a machinery assessment and categorised the fish de-heading machine as a “5” out of five in respect of the risk that the inadequately guarded blade posed – five being the highest risk. Despite Sanford being aware of this risk, the company continued to keep the machine in operation, and did not inform all people working nearby the machine of the identified hazard.

WorkSafe Chief Inspector Keith Stewart says the incident was the direct result of both companies not meeting their health and safety obligations.

“Both parties failed in their duties to this employee – AWF should have ensured the employee was assigned to a safe work environment, while Sanford should have made sure that people in the workplace were aware of the blade hazard and were not exposed to direct contact with the blade,” says Mr Stewart.

“The consequences for the victim continue to hinder his day-to-day life. It’s been almost a year since this incident occurred and the victim has not regained full use of his hand.” Mr Stewart says.

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