Worker’s hand severely injured in chain at meat processing company

Adequately guarded machinery would have prevented a worker from suffering injuries so severe she may never have full use of her hand again.

Fresh Meats NZ Limited was sentenced at the Napier District Court last Friday and ordered to pay a total of $293,000 in fines and reparation after the worker’s hand was caught in machinery.

The slaughter and processing company processes over 250,000 lambs a year. In November 2018 a worker was cleaning the chains used to move carcasses when her arm became trapped in the moving parts.

It took the victim’s co-workers 10 minutes to help remove her hand from the chain. As a result of the incident she suffered extensive lacerations and trauma to muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and bones in her right hand and wrist.

WorkSafe Acting Chief Inspector Danielle Henry said the worker’s injuries were so serious she would never recover full mobility in her hand. She said WorkSafe’s investigation following the incident found that the machinery was unguarded.

“The importance of machine guarding has been a focus area across all industries for many years,” Ms Henry said.

“Though a task instruction sheet prepared by the company clearly stated that machinery should only be cleaned when it was turned off, our investigation found it was common practice for staff to clean the machinery while it was moving.

“Fresh Meats NZ Limited had gone so far as to identify a hazard, but then did not make sure the safe system of work was in place.

“Writing down a health and safety plan is one thing, but it must be implemented.”

Notes:

  • A fine of $253,125 was imposed.
  • Reparation of $40,000 (including $10,000 consequential loss) were ordered.
  • Fresh Meats NZ Limited was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 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 is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU while workers are at work in the business, namely while cleaning the production chains, did fail to comply with that duty, that failure exposing workers to a risk of serious injury.
  • S 48(2)(c) carries a maximum penalty of $1,500,000.

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