Posted on: Apr 02, 2014
Accidents and injuries that occur in the workplace are not only dangerous and distressful; they can result in very hefty fines. Below is a collection of recent examples of how employers have failed to take “all practicable steps” to protect their employee’s from harm.
“All practical steps” is defined under section 2A of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 as follows:
(1) In this Act, all practicable steps, in relation to achieving any result in any circumstances, means all steps to achieve the result that it is reasonably practicable to take in the circumstances, having regard to—
the nature and severity of the harm that may be suffered if the result is not achieved; and
(b) the current state of knowledge about the likelihood that harm of that nature and severity will be suffered if the result is not achieved; and
(c) the current state of knowledge about harm of that nature; and
(d) the current state of knowledge about the means available to achieve the result, and about the likely efficacy of each of those means; and
(e) the availability and cost of each of those means.
(2) To avoid doubt, a person required by this Act to take all practicable steps is required to take those steps only in respect of circumstances that the person knows or ought reasonably to know about.
Sadly all of these accidents, which have resulted in serious injuries and death, could have been prevented. This comes as a harsh reminder that we all need to pay closer attention to health and safety, to constantly improve our safety systems and processes, and ensure we take all practicable steps to keep everyone safe at work. It’s not just a fancy piece of legislation – it’s life and death, and we all need to do more to protect those around us and ourselves.
Below is a summary of a few recent health and safety cases, including the hefty fines that have been issued by the Courts.
Snowplanet fined after worker injured
WorkSafe says Snowplanet should have done more to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the conveyor.
20 March 2014
The indoor ski park company Snowplanet has been fined $42,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $9,500 after a worker had his arm crushed while clearing snow from under a conveyor belt in April last year.
Christopher Hill’s arm was fractured when it was trapped in a ‘running nip’ created by a roller and the ‘Magic Carpet’ conveyor, which is used to move skiers up a snow-covered slope.
Mr Hill had climbed underneath the upper end of the conveyor to clear away snow. The glove on his left hand and his jacket got caught in the pinch point between the roller and the conveyor belt, dragging his arm into the mechanism. He had to be cut free from the machine and had to undergo surgery.
Snowplanet pleaded guilty to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure his safety.
WorkSafe NZ’s chief investigator, Keith Stewart, said Snowplanet should have done more to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the conveyor.
“There was also nothing to prevent a person lifting the hatch and climbing down under the conveyor exposing themselves to the dangerous parts while the conveyor was running. The company should have had an effective lockout procedure in place.
“Snowplanet has now fitted padlocks to the access panels and fixed guards under the conveyor. It has also implemented a proper lockout procedure for cleaning and maintenance of the ‘Magic Carpet’ conveyor.
“Those simple measures will hopefully help prevent another similar incident,” said Keith Stewart.
Source: WorkSafe NZ
Hefty fine and reparations order after toxic gas leaves workers unconscious
WorkSafe found workers at Tasman Tanning were not given adequate training to respond to such an emergency.
26 March 2014
Whanganui company Tasman Tanning has today been fined $73,000 and ordered to pay reparations totalling $90,000 over a toxic gas incident that left four of its workers unconscious.
Workers at Tasman Tanning’s Tod Street tannery were exposed to hydrogen sulphide gas in November 2012 after two chemicals used in the leather making process, sulphuric acid and hydrosulphide, were mixed. Exposure to hydrogen sulphide can cause nausea, headaches, memory loss, unconsciousness, convulsions and death.
The gas knocked out two workers, Joseph Ratana and Warren Burgess, on the mezzanine floor of the tannery. A third man, Taniela Balivou, fell unconscious when he attempted to go to their aid and another worker involved in rescue efforts also passed out briefly.
The tannery was evacuated. The unconscious men were eventually pulled from the building by co-workers, who found two breathing masks that enabled them to make it up to the mezzanine.
Mr Ratana and Mr Burgess were hospitalised and placed into medically induced comas as part of their treatment. The pair suffered short-term memory loss and temporary loss of sight. Mr Balivou regained consciousness outside the tannery.
Tasman Tanning pleaded guilty in the Whanganui District Court to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its workers.
WorkSafe’s General Manager of Investigations, Brett Murray, said Tasman Tanning could have taken a number of steps to avoid such an incident, including issuing employees with personal gas detectors which would have warned them about the high hydrogen sulphide levels.
“Workers at Tasman Tanning were also not given adequate training to respond to such an emergency. There was no proper safe operating procedure in place and workers did not ensure their own safety before going to the aid of Mr Ratana and Mr Burgess. This resulted in serious harm to some of those employees.
“The company could also have had separate chemical storage tanks for each vessel used in the tanning process. Shared storage tanks meant that substances intended for one vessel could mistakenly be transferred to the wrong vessel. The remote location of the holding tank control panel also added to the possibility of an error.
“This was an extremely serious incident. Today’s fine is a powerful reminder to all involved in the use of hazardous chemicals of the importance of proper planning and procedures, good training and the appropriate handling and storage of chemicals,” said Brett Murray.
Source: WorkSafe NZ
Farm company fined over tractor death
Fatality related to remote control tractor system commonly used in harvesting operations.
1 April 2014
Waikato company, Sundale Farms Limited, has been fined $25,400 over the death of a worker killed by a runaway remote controlled tractor.
Gursharan Singh was on his second day on the job harvesting broccoli in March last year when he was pulled under the wheels of a tractor at Sundale Farm’s Pukekawa farm.
Mr Singh was attempting to reach the tractor’s controls after it had accelerated unexpectedly from its normal speed of 0.3 kilometres an hour to 6.7 kilometres an hour. He was caught by the left hand rear wheel of the tractor and pulled to the ground and run over.
The tractor, which was towing a trailer for the loading of broccoli, was operated via a remote control system so that a driver was not required to sit at the controls.
Sundale Farms pleaded guilty to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure Mr Singh’s safety, and was sentenced today in the Pukekohe District Court.
WorkSafe NZ’s chief investigator, Keith Stewart, said Mr Singh was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident and was acting contrary to instructions. But Sundale Farms could have taken a number of simple steps to make its operation safer.
“The tractor was checked at the start of each day to see that it was working correctly, but there was no routine maintenance programme. Its systems should have been checked regularly, and preventative maintenance carried out.
“An inhibitor switch in the gear selector should also have been installed to ensure that remote operation was only possible in the low gear range. And an emergency stop system should have been installed on the harvesting trailer so the workers present on the trailer, when it ran away, could have stopped the tractor. Mr Singh was attempting to mount the tractor when he was killed.
“Remote control tractor systems are common in harvesting operations around the country. I hope the lessons learned from this incident will help prevent similar tragedies in future,” said Keith Stewart.
Source: WorkSafe NZ
This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.