WorkSafe NZ is stressing the requirement for employers to provide and ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) is used after Mapua Avocados Limited was found guilty and sentenced in relation to a casual worker in Northland who suffered a significant eye injury.
The victim and a supervisor were repairing orchard fencing in April 2021 when a high-tensile wire snapped, striking the 20-year-old's left eye. The injury required two surgeries and his vision is now permanently impaired.
WorkSafe’s investigation into the incident found the business failed to train and supervise workers and didn’t monitor the safe use of PPE when workers were carrying out work. The business had no formal process in place to ensure workers were wearing PPE, leaving supervisors to instead fill that gap by managing the wearing of PPE in the field.
The investigation also found there had been a near miss one month earlier in similar circumstances, which was not reported to senior management by a supervisor until after the later incident.
The victim, who was a trainee, had seen others including supervisors not using protective eyewear during fencing jobs and neither the victim nor their supervisor had been wearing safety glasses at the time of the incident.
“Information about PPE such as eye protection and how it protects workers has been readily accessible for years now. The use of PPE is entrenched in every modern safe work practice. Businesses do not meet their obligations to workers by viewing safety as optional, and workers should be wearing PPE where they are exposed to risk. Businesses are required to model and champion safe work.” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Danielle Henry.
WorkSafe considered the business had departed from guidance which was available and could have prevented this injury, including:
- Protecting your workers’ eyes
- Personal protective equipment guides for businesses and workers
- How to manage work risks
- Providing information, training, instruction or supervision for workers
In sentencing Mapua Avocados Limited Judge Singh ordered reparations to the victim of $62,185. A fine of $240,000 would have been imposed but was reduced to $0 due to the financial circumstances and its inability to pay any fine.
- Mapua Avocados Ltd was sentenced at the North Shore District Court on 28 February 2023.
- Reparations of $62,185 were ordered. A fine of $240,000 was imposed which was reduced to $0.
- Mapua Avocados Ltd was charged under sections 36(1)(a) and 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
- Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, namely installing, maintaining, repairing and removing artificial shelters on farms, did fail to comply with that duty, and that failure exposed the workers to the risk of serious injury.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.