Riverlands denies hazard failings

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2013

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A Riverlands worker screamed when the tip of his finger was amputated in a conveyor belt, the New Plymouth District Court heard yesterday.

Erick Jimmy later had the finger removed down to the first joint after it became infected.

Riverlands Eltham Ltd denies a charge, brought by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, of failing to take all practicable steps on December 7, 2011 to ensure Mr Jimmy was not exposed to hazards arising out of the blood collection chain conveyor.

The meat works argues that Mr Jimmy was distracted through chatting to another worker, was well aware of the hazard posed by the conveyor belt and should have been looking out for himself.

Mr Jimmy, a Papua New Guinean, told the court yesterday that it was a regular practice for him and others to put their hands on the conveyor belt.

The blood collector and a workmate who was close by when the accident happened, halal slaughterer Nazri Halim, of Malaysia, both told the court that the company had put them through an induction process when they started but they had never been told to keep away from the belt.

Mr Jimmy said on the day of his accident he was chatting with Mr Halim and put both hands on the conveyor belt at the same time the belt started up.

"I pulled the left hand off but the right hand got stuck. I pulled it away," he said.

There was no warning given that the belt would start moving nor were there any guards on the belt.

Mr Jimmy's supervisor at the time of the accident, Edward Douglas Prime, agreed with the ministry's prosecutor Saar Cohen-Ronen that he had never received safety warnings from Riverlands nor been told of the hazards posed by the conveyor belt.

However he believed it was common sense that it was dangerous.

About six to seven months later the company had installed guards over much of the belt, an overhead alarm now sounded prior to it moving and an emergency wire had been installed along the side of the belt.

More recently another worker got his foot stuck in the conveyor but was able to pull his foot out of his gumboot, Mr Prime said.

Mr Prime asked that a protective bar be put across "and that was done".

To Riverlands' lawyer, Alistair Derroch of Wellington, Mr Prime agreed the floor was busy and noisy with many hazards.

"You do have to be careful of yourself where you stand or what you touch," Mr Derroch said.

Mr Prime agreed.

"You told Jimmy of the dangers of the chain and that he needed to look after his own safety?"

"Yes," Mr Prime replied.

Mr Jimmy agreed with Mr Derroch that on the day of the accident, Mr Jimmy had told Mr Prime that he had done a stupid thing by leaving his hand on the chain.

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To Mr Halim, Mr Derroch said the supervisor who spoke to Mr Halim after the accident had written down that the cause of the accident was lack of concentration. The union investigator also concluded it was inattention by the worker.

Mr Halim disagreed.

The hearing, before Judge Max Courtney, is expected to continue until tomorrow.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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