WorkSafe Prosecution Corner

30 Mar 2020

WorkSafe is reminding businesses to go back to basics before allowing workers to operate dangerous machinery.

WorkSafe’s Acting Chief Inspector Danielle Henry says when it comes to operating equipment it is important to get the basics right.

“Businesses operating any kind of machinery should ensure there are appropriate controls in place and the machine is inactive before cleaning or repairing it,” she said.

She says if you are engaging people to work in a business that uses machinery, stop and think for five minutes:

  • Is your machine guarded?
  • Do you have a safe system of work in place?
  • Are your workers properly trained and supervised?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, workers should not be operating the machinery, Ms Henry says.

The message comes after Oak Lane Chaff Limited was fined $260,000 in March. The sentencing at the Hastings District Court followed an accident in August 2018 when a worker was dragged into the mixing elements inside of a forage wagon while completing repairs. The machine had been modified to mix and bag animal feed and was used as part of the production process by Oak Lane Chaff.

The worker suffered vertebrae, shoulder and rib fractures as well as puncture wounds to his chest and abdomen after being pulled into the machine and out onto its conveyor belt. Another worker also helping repair the wagon suffered injuries to his knees as a result of the incident.

A WorkSafe investigation found power had not been isolated from the machine while repair work was taking place, allowing the machine to accidentally start up.  The wagon was not appropriately guarded and there was no lock out system.

There was also no safe system of work in place for cleaning, maintaining or repairing the forage wagon and Oak Lane Chaff did not provide appropriate training or have supervision in place to protect workers while undertaking such repair work on the machinery.

The charge and the penalties: 

  • Being a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) and having a duty to ensure the health and safety of workers, the company failed to comply with that duty. This exposed workers to a risk of serious injury, arising from exposure to a crushing or ejection hazards created by the moving parts of the forage wagon.
  • A fine of $260,000 was imposed.
  • Reparation to two workers totalling $61,395 was ordered.
  • Oak Lane Chaff was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and 2(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

A link to Site Safe's Accident Investigation and Prevention course is here for when training resumes after the COVID-19 lockdown is lifted. The course is suitable for anyone who is responsible for participating in the accident investigation and prevention process in their firm or organisation.