Sealord admits lapse in employee safety

MICHELLE SUTTON
Last updated 13:00 06/09/2012

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Sealord Group has pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the safety of employees after a worker fell and ruptured his spleen while working on one of its boats in Nelson.

Sealord entered the plea to the charge in the Nelson District Court before Judge Tom Broadmore yesterday.

The employee broke his ribs, ruptured his spleen and suffered internal bleeding after the incident on Ocean Dawn at Port Nelson on October 2 last year, according to the summary of facts.

Initially Sealord faced four charges laid by Maritime New Zealand for health and safety breaches, but Maritime NZ solicitor Sophie O'Donoghue yesterday withdrew three.

The summary said the employee fell five metres and into a hull while removing bungs - wood-covered foam to insulate the fish hold - from the vessel's hatch that did not have guard rails.

Guide rails for the hatch were on board, but were not used.

He was taken to hospital by the vessel's medic and discharged shortly after.

However, he was taken back to hospital when it was discovered he had ruptured his spleen.

Doctors performed an emergency splenectomy, the removal of the spleen.

He suffered internal bleeding, requiring a transfusion and also developed pneumonia.

He was discharged a week later.

Maritime NZ issued an improvement notice a few days later after Sealord failed to install hatch guard rails immediately after the accident.

An inspector described it as a risk causing serious harm.

The summary said the rails had to be custom-designed, manufactured and fitted by on-shore engineers, but instead Sealord closed the hatch cover and arranged alternative measures.

These included a static line across the hatch, the summary of facts said.

It said the company had five previous convictions between 2000 and 2008 for failing to ensure the safety of employees, as well as one conviction for failing to ensure adequate training.

Sealord faces a maximum fine of $250,000 for the offence and will be sentenced on October 5.

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- The Nelson Mail

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