Fumigation company fined over NZ safety incident

Monday, 06 July, 2009

An Australasian fumigation company has been fined NZ$38,000 and ordered to pay $40,000 to a worker who was crushed by a cover rolling machine that fell on him from a height of 3.5 m.

The employee suffered a fractured lumbar vertebrae and a dislocated shoulder in the accident that occurred in Tauranga in August 2008 and was in hospital for eight days. However, the seriousness of his injuries means he has not been able to work in the 10 months since the accident and will require further surgery.

Genera Ltd pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to take all practicable steps of keeping its employee safe at work under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

Department of Labour Waikato-Eastern regional manager Ona De Rooy said the accident was preventable: “It was reasonable that the hazards associated with the cover rolling machine should have been identified. Genera failed to have it certified by an engineer as a forklift attachment, as required by industry standards; they had not ensured the machine was secured to the forklift; and there were no safe operating procedures or training to ensure employee safety.”

Genera designed the cover rolling machine to increase productivity and minimise manual handling issues. The device did reduce the level of risk to employees; however, the company had not foreseen that this change in practice presented new hazards.

The machines weigh 250 kg, but when fully loaded — as when the accident took place — they can weigh up to 650 kg.

“Employers need to ensure that before new machinery is introduced into workplaces, workers are properly trained in how to operate it, that hazards are identified and procedures are put in place to eliminate, isolate or minimise them,” continued De Rooy. “This accident emphasises the importance of ensuring that workplaces are safe, including the training of staff, which Genera failed to do. It may sound costly and time consuming, but it’s less expensive than having workers suffer significant and often lifelong injuries.”

The company is working with the Department of Labour to ensure that lessons are learned from this type of accident.

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