Talley's finger amputations match big two

19:49, May 05 2010

The shocking health and safety record at Talley's meat processing plant at Awarua, near Invercargill, is likely to attract even more criticism after it was revealed yesterday finger amputations at the plant matched the total of all 31 plants operated by the two biggest meat companies in New Zealand.

The Labour Department said on Monday that Talley's had a "long-running disregard for health and safety", with six incidents in the past 18 months of workers amputating fingers while using bandsaws to cut up carcasses.

Yesterday, Silver Fern Farms, which operates 22 plants, and the Alliance Group with nine plants, reported that each had recorded three workers cutting off fingers during the same period.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper said the company had introduced a comprehensive bandsaw operator training module three years ago that had improved its bandsaw incident statistics.

This included new bandsaw operators being trained for up to six weeks and being observed for a further three months and passing various bandsaw operating competency standards.

Silver Fern Farms operated 90 bandsaws in 20 of its 22 plants throughout the country, but Mr Cooper said he wasn't happy with three amputations at those plants in 20 months.

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Significant ongoing efforts were required to ensure hazards associated with bandsaws were either eliminated, isolated or minimised, he said.

The Alliance Group's communications manager Kerry Stevens yesterday said three employees at its nine plants had suffered finger amputations in bandsaw-related accidents during the past 18 months.

Two of those amputations were at its Lorneville plant, but none was at its Mataura or Makarewa plants, he said.

The Labour Department this week said of the 19 serious harm incidents at the Talley's-Affco-owned South Pacific Meats plant at Awarua in the past 18 months, 12 were bandsaw cuts, with six of those amputations.

South Pacific Meats had shown a long-running disregard for health and safety issues in the use of bandsaws, she said.

South Pacific Meats plant manager Malcolm Hampton said this week the company disagreed it had ever had a disregard for health and safety.

It had spent $250,000 on improvements in areas relating to saws in the past two years, and this did not include increased spending on training and staff.evan.harding@stl.co.nz

The Southland Times