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Company guilty of safety neglect

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2013

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A Taranaki meatworks installed safety guards just hours after an employee lost the tip of a finger.

Riverlands Eltham Ltd had been charged by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment with failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of the employee.

It was found guilty in the New Plymouth District Court yesterday.

Erick Jimmy, a Papua New Guinean, had part of a finger severed while he worked on the blood collection chain conveyor on December 7, 2011.

He later had to have his index finger on his right hand removed down to the first joint after it became infected.

At the time of the accident there were no guards to stop an employee's fingers from being placed on the chain or no warning system in place to alert staff when the chain would start moving.

In the district court yesterday Judge Max Courtney found the company had not taken all practicable steps to ensure Mr Jimmy was not exposed to the hazards posed by the machinery.

Judge Courtney said Riverlands was clearly aware of what injuries could be caused and what remedies were available.

Guards were installed on the machinery soon after the accident.

"They were available, as I say, they were produced in a matter of hours and for this company produced at minimal cost," he said.

Despite there being no accidents in the six years the chain had been in operation, Judge Courtney said in his view it was foreseeable an employee could get their fingers caught in the machinery.

He said the immediate installation of the guards demonstrated the company was aware of the potential for injuries and did not accept that the dangers were only highlighted by the accident.

"It is in my view not over the top, it is in my view a practicable step.

"The hazard was there and was obvious to see."

Judge Courtney said Riverlands had not undertaken any hazard identification at the time the machinery was installed.

Since the accident a warning light had been added to alert staff when the chain would move.

Mr Jimmy's injury was sustained as he pulled his hand out of the machinery and an emergency stop button accessible to the operator was another practicable step Riverlands had failed to take, Judge Courtney said.

He found the charge proven as Riverlands had failed to take the three steps.

Riverlands will be sentenced on January 23.

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