Smelter's safety record 'disappointing'

Last updated 05:00 03/01/2014

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New Zealand Aluminium Smelters' safety performance at the Tiwai Pt plant was disappointing in 2013 and this year it must improve, its boss says.

NZ Aluminium Smelters general manager Gretta Stephens highlighted safety in the recent Tiwai Pointer newsletter.

"Unfortunately, our safety performance in 2013 has been disappointing with eight recordable injuries year to date.

"We need to do something differently in the New Year if we are to get to zero," Ms Stephens said. "I firmly believe we can reach this goal as there are many examples of teams and individual people on site, both employees and contractors, who are already there."

If it was possible for other individuals to stay safe, then it was possible for the whole site to stay safe, she said.

"A great example of this is the Mobile Equipment Workshop team who reached 3000 consecutive safe days in 2013. This is a fantastic achievement and clearly demonstrates that the goal of zero is achievable."

NZ Aluminium Smelters acting general manager Scott Westbury said there were no obvious reasons why the numbers had increased this year.

NZ Aluminium Smelters safety targets for 2014 would be confirmed early in the year, Mr Westbury said.

Data supplied to The Southland Times by NZ Aluminium Smelters from 2008 to 2013 shows the number of lost-day injuries and restricted work-day injuries combined in 2013 was the highest.

A restricted work-day injury is where the injured person is at work but unable to carry out the full requirements of their role so is assigned other duties.

Lost-day injuries in 2013 include rotator cuff tendon injury, sprained and twisted knee, crushed hand, lacerations and a burnt finger.

Restricted work-day injuries include a sprained ankle, sprained/twisted knee, finger fracture, pulled nail and laceration to a finger.

The data shows similar injuries for other years and also includes a crushed foot, a fractured clavicle and dislocated shoulder, fractured leg, fractured wrist, broken and crushed ankles, bruised ribs and lower back strain.

NZ Aluminium Smelters community relations officer Andrea Carson said the injury numbers were not as good as the smelter would like, but its overall safety performance was reasonably good.

"We aim for zero injuries and are working hard to reinforce the need for our employees and contractors to remain absolutely focused on safety at all times."

Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, incidents are reported to WorkSafe New Zealand, a former division of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

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WorkSafe New Zealand investigated only some reported incidents, and these were entirely at its discretion.

Documents released by WorkSafe New Zealand under the Official Information Act shows the following incidents were investigated in 2011 at the Tiwai Pt smelter: A broken leg with lacerations when a contractor fell from a cladding pack and a fractured hip after a worker fell from a casting table.

In 2012, a crushed foot was investigated after a worker's ankle was run over by a forklift.

The documents also show there were "occupational illness investigations".

These ranged from tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, dermatitis, carpal tunnel syndrome (condition of the hand and fingers caused by compression of a major nerve) and folliculitis (infection of hair follicles).


Restricted Lost-day work-day Year injuries injuries 2008 1 5 2009 2 5 2010 1 0 2011 6 0 2012 2 1 2013 4 4

- The Southland Times

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