Canpac must pay $35,000 for lost finger

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 26/04/2014

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A Hamilton-based international can manufacturing company has been ordered to pay $35,000 after an employee lost part of her finger in one of its machines.

In the Hamilton District Court on Thursday, Judge Robert Spear more than halved Canpac International Ltd's initial $60,000 award after he accepted multiple mitigating aspects including remorse, an early guilty plea and a near-perfect conviction history.

The employee, Madeline Waretini, began working on a temporary fulltime basis in January last year as a machine operator.

Canpac manufactures metal cans on four separate lines from its Foreman Rd premises.

On April 29, Waretini was working in "the magazine" area where a stack of flat metal plates - known as blanks - are fed into power rollers to go further down the line for processing.

Waretini was tasked with unloading the slitter machine, which required her to manually block a sensor by putting a tin cover on it. She then had to manually apply pressure so that the cans - processed at 200 cans per minute - could run smoothly. However, it was while applying this pressure that Waretini was surprised by a bump in the blanks and she moved her right hand outwards to gain balance before getting it caught in between the power rollers.

The tip of her middle finger was amputated and her ring finger was crushed.

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment investigation discovered the machine's rollers were still able to move, even when the safety guard had been opened or removed.

In her victim impact statement, which Canpac's counsel Grant Nicholson said was "crafted for a receptive audience in this court", she said she suffered extreme pain for more than a month, requiring pain relief including morphine.

She now had "substantially diminished" use of her right hand - her lead hand - which has meant a drop in its functionality.

Waretini said there had been a lack of empathy on Canpac's behalf, both during and after the accident.

But Judge Spear said the company "displayed its remorse following the accident as best it could".

He accepted the accident had been life-changing for Waretini, but in ordering reparation said it was "not available to deal with future economic loss such as inability to earn at the same rate as was the case before the accident".

A compromise of $10,000 reparation was eventually reached between the ministry and Canpac, who were arguing for $15,000 and $5000 respectively.

Martin Denyer, counsel for the MBIE, said the accident exposed Canpac's standard operating procedure, which required a worker to remove a guard, cover the sensor and place their hands in fast-moving machinery.

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In sentencing Canpac on a charge of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employee while at work, Judge Spear also took into account that the firm had since rectified that particular procedure, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, with a machine taking over that task and the safety door being locked unless the machine had been shut down.

- Waikato Times

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