Inadequate machine guarding leads to hand amputation

Machine guarding failures in the meat processing industry are continuing to cause life-changing injuries to workers.

Alliance Group Limited appeared in the Timaru District Court on Wednesday, after an incident where an inexperienced worker’s hand was amputated in a piece of machinery in March 2017.

The worker had been employed at the plant for only five days and was left unsupervised on a task. Due to the worker’s lack of familiarity with the job, he opened a section of the machinery used for dehydrating blood into a powder and placed his right hand inside. His hand came in contact with a rotating screw and was amputated.

Our investigation found that Alliance Group had failed to ensure the health and safety of its workers and that it was reasonably practicable for them to have undertaken an adequate risk assessment of the machine and to have ensured it was adequately guarded.

WorkSafe’s Deputy General Manager for Investigations and Specialist Services Simon Humphries said, “The level of injury and trauma this worker endured as a result of Alliance’s failings will impact him for the rest of his life.

“This is a stark reminder to others operating machinery in every industry to ensure machinery is adequately guarded. New Zealand has rigorous and accessible standards for machine guarding – adhering to them and mitigating the risks your machinery poses is imperative to keeping workers safe from harm."

Following the incident, Alliance Group had in-house engineers guard the machine and also produced a standard operating procedure for the task of blood drying.

Notes:

  • A fine of $332,000 was imposed.
  • Alliance Group Limited voluntarily paid reparations prior to sentencing, and no further reparations were ordered.
  • Alliance Group 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, failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking.
  • The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1,500,000.

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