WorkSafe New Zealand says businesses must actively identify and control risks that could kill or maim their workers.

In the Christchurch District Court, Sullivan Packaging Ltd was fined a total of $52,000 and ordered to pay $20,000 reparations after a worker was trapped unconscious in a machine he was carrying out maintenance on after an unlocked metal plate collapsed on him. The company pleaded guilty to two charges under section 6 (failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employees while at work) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act (1992).

The worker died the next day after a coronary episode.

“Our investigation found systemic failures, including a limited understanding of risk identification and management. Without an established safe work system, the company relied on workers knowing what to do when operating or maintaining their equipment,” said WorkSafe Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart.

“WorkSafe was concerned to discover two other machines with faulty safety devices while investigating this tragic incident. One of them was involved in a serious incident in 2007 and the company had not ensured that worker’s safety was protected.

“This is unacceptable behaviour – workers’ health and safety must always come first,” Mr Stewart said.

“The key to keeping people safe at work is having a system in place to identify and manage a business’s workplace risks. Once risks are identified, clearly identifying the relevant controls, such as defining standard operating procedures, and implementing them is critical.

“Never assume that protective devices are working. Always monitor them and continue working toward designing risk out of the workplace where possible,” add Mr Stewart.

WorkSafe’s investigation found the business:

  • lacked an understanding of its critical risks
  • should use locks or other isolation devices to make it clear that equipment is out of service for repair
  • needed to better monitor its known risks and control measures
  • needed a health and safety system to help manage health and safety in their workplace.

Notes - The first charge relates to the fatality and the second charge to the discovery of the faulty machinery.

The fine per charge per was $26,000.

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