Alliance announces installation of bandsaws with safe cutting technology

New bandsaws at the Smithfield Alliance Group meat processing plant near Timaru.

New bandsaws at the Smithfield Alliance Group meat processing plant near Timaru.

A more-than $3 million investment in technology that senses when a person is getting too close is part of a new drive to improve safety at South Canterbury and North Otago food processing plants.

Food company Alliance Group on Monday announced it would spend $3.4 million on new bandsaws designed to stop when the unit senses a person or glove in close proximity.

Forty-nine bandsaws featuring the new safety technology have been installed at the company's Timaru and Pukeuri plants, with six others across the country.

New Zealand Meatworkers Union Canterbury secretary Bill Watt said bandsaw work was among the most dangerous work undertaken at meat processing plants.

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Watt, who represents 1400 of meatworkers from South Canterbury, was happy with the upgrades.

"Anything that can make the workplace safer is welcome."

Bandsaws did not cause high rates of injury - but caused some of the worst injuries in the industry, Watt said. 

"They (bandsaws) are very unforgiving. If you get a good cut on one of those, it can certainly do some damage," he said.

The saws are designed specifically for the meat industry. They stop within 15 milliseconds of sensing a person, glove or both are in close proximity to the saw.

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Alliance Group general manager of processing Kerry Stevens said the move was prompted by a desire to create safer workplace. No incidents prompted the decision. 

The installation had been planned since early 2016, he said. 

The company was also conducting expanded work safety training programmes and increasing spending on other items of machinery to optimise safety within its facilities, he said.

Alliance Group chief executive David Surveyor said the group also planned to invest more than $2 million replacing 20 larger bandsaws as soon as the technology became available.

WorkSafe manufacturing programme sponsor Simon Humphries said Alliance Group was moving in a positive direction.

"WorkSafe is supportive of any innovations that help reduce the injury and fatality rates in the meat industry. 

"Safety by design is an important step in helping keep workers safe, and band saws that automatically stop when workers limbs get too close to the blade are a great example of sector led innovation that will provide better safety outcomes for workers."

 - Stuff

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