Multiple risk sources need to be managed

The tortilla oven that crushed and burned a worker’s hand and arm in November 2016 had multiple sources of risk.

The worker was cooking tortillas in a commercial tortilla press and oven when a tortilla became stuck. As he had been taught, the worker removed guarding from the machine and reached in to dislodge the stuck tortilla with a spatula. After the spatula got stuck in the conveyer slats, the worker put on heat resistant gloves and reached in to get the tortilla and spatula out. His glove became caught and his right hand and arm were drawn into the oven.

Miller Foods Limited, trading as Remarkable Tortillas, was sentenced in the Queenstown District Court today following an incident that left a worker’s arm trapped in an oven that was aflame.

The worker was cooking tortillas in a commercial tortilla press and oven when his glove became caught and his right hand and arm were drawn into the oven. Other workers freed the man’s arm, but were not immediately aware of what to do in an emergency.

WorkSafe’s investigation found that Remarkable Tortillas had inadequate health and safety systems, failed to ensure a risk assessment of the machinery was carried out, failed to provide suitable guarding, and failed to ensure that workers were adequately trained and were aware of an appropriate emergency system.

“This was a piece of machinery loaded with risks.” says WorkSafe Deputy General Manager, Investigations and Specialist Services, Simon Humphries.

“The gas burners, the moving conveyer belt and the inadequate machine guarding all contributed to an incident that was entirely avoidable. Tortillas getting jammed was a known issue but there was no safe system in place for managing the problem.”

Following prohibition and improvement notices from WorkSafe, Remarkable Tortillas have since installed an interlocking guard.

Notes:

  • No fine was imposed, the reasons for this were suppressed by the Court.
  • The court said had a fine been payable, it would have been $337,500.
  • Reparations of $52,282.97 were ordered and payable.
  • Miller Foods Limited trading as Remarkable Tortillas was charged 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.

Useful documents

Safe use of machinery (PDF 5.4 MB)

Guarding of conveyors (PDF 552 KB)

Media contact details

For more information you can contact our Media Team using our media request form. Alternatively, you can:

Phone: 021 823 007 or

Email: media@worksafe.govt.nz