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Injuries highlight need for guarding on machinery

29 September 2008

Injuries highlight need for guarding on machinery

The serious injuries suffered by an employee whose hand was crushed in the rollers of a pastry-rolling machine highlight the need to keep dangerous machinery properly guarded, the Department of Labour says.

In the Hawera District Court today the injured man's employer, Yarrows the Bakers Ltd, was fined $45,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $17,146. The company had earlier pleaded guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

This case is a reminder that moving equipment must be properly guarded or positioned out of reach of employees, says the Department of Labour's New Plymouth Service Manager Brett Murray.

"We investigate far too many cases where people are seriously injured while cleaning or maintaining moving equipment," Mr Murray said. "Employers must have documented procedures to show employees how to do these tasks safety, and they must ensure that employees understand and follow these safe processes."
The Yarrows employee suffered serious damage to his right hand, spent a month in hospital and underwent three operations.

The accident happened when the employee was cleaning machinery, and was looking into a chute into which blocks of pastry dough were dropped before being passed through a series of rollers and pressed into flat sheets. While looking in, the employee dropped a plastic cleaning scrapper and instinctively tried to retrieve it by reaching into the chute with his right hand. But his fingers were caught by one of the moving rollers and his hand was drawn between them and crushed.

Yarrows was prosecuted for failing to ensure there was adequate guarding to protect its employee, and for not having an effective procedure for operating and cleaning the roller equipment.

The company was previously prosecuted by the Department over an accident in 2004 when an employee lost the tips of two fingers in a dough cutting machine.

Mr Murray says the case highlights that physical barriers like guardrails and positioning dangerous equipment out of reach are more effective at preventing accidents than relying on people's good judgement.
"In this case the employee made a bad call when he put his hand into the chute when the rollers were moving," Mr Murray says. "But it was an instinctive reaction to try to retrieve the cleaning scrapper."
All human beings make mistakes, he says. "So employers need to have safety controls in place to stop bad calls and mistakes from causing serious accidents."

That means installing proper guarding and safety systems that turn machinery off if guards are lifted or doors open, he says. "Employers also need effective procedures that cover operating, cleaning and maintaining equipment, and training staff to use the equipment safely."

Mr Murray says the department will continue to work with Yarrows to support improved health and safety practices at the company's workplaces. He encouraged other employers using machinery to read the department's Guidelines for Guarding Principles and General Safety for Machinery, available at www.dol.govt.nz.


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