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Health board to pay after worker almost loses toe

Health board to pay after worker almost loses toe

A locking pin missing from a patient lifting hoist has cost the Capital and Coast District Health Board $7500, after the Occupational Safety and Health Service successfully prosecuted the board over an accident where a staff member nearly lost her big toe.

In the Wellington District Court today, the board was ordered to pay the $7500 to the victim of the October 2003 accident. The board had pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the woman’s safety at work.

The accident happened when part of a hoist used for lifting patients into a hydrotherapy pool at Kenepuru Hospital fell off and landed on the woman’s foot, partially amputating her big toe.

OSH service manager for Wellington/Kapiti Rob Scriven said that when OSH investigated the accident, the inspector discovered the hoist was missing a locking pin that would have prevented the part falling off.

“No one, including designated trainers and operators, knew that they were supposed to use a locking pin, and it appears that the pin had been missing for 11 years,” he said.

“This is a prime example of the need for organisations that use sophisticated equipment such as this to ensure that staff fully understand how the equipment works, how to use it appropriately and safely, and to ensure that it’s in proper working order.

“In this case, the staff member was very lucky not to lose her toe, or worse. Had there been a patient in the lifting hoist at the time of the accident, her injuries could have been far more serious, and the patient harmed also.”

Mr Scriven said that after the accident occurred, the health board moved to permanently fit a locking pin to the hoist, and put up signage to demonstrate correct use of the equipment. “Such easy steps to take to ensure safety, but unfortunately too late for this employee.”

He said employers must ensure that workplace hazards were identified and controlled correctly. “Everyone had the right to go to work and come home at the end of the day with all their digits intact.“

During sentencing, Justice Grace said it was “pure luck” that no one else had been injured over the 11 years the locking pin was missing, and found that the board’s culpability was high.

This is the first OSH prosecution of a District Health Board under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 since the Crown Organisations (Criminal Liability) Act came into effect in October 2002, although Crown Health Enterprises had been prosecuted in the past.

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