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Dangers of working around machinery

29 October 2004

Meatworks death highlights dangers of working around machinery

Two accidents at Richmond Ltd’s Oringi meatworks earlier this year highlight the dangers of working around moving machinery, and the need for workers to be trained to work safely.

Richmond Ltd was today fined a total of $62,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $77,000 after pleading guilty to three charges laid by the Department of Labour’s occupational safety and health service. The service investigated two accidents, one of them fatal, within the space of a week at the Oringi plant near Dannevirke.

OSH Manawatu-Whanganui Service Manager Linda Murphy said the accidents had been a tragedy for everyone involved, and highlighted the perils of working around moving machinery. “It’s essential that workers are protected by proper guarding, and that they are trained to understand how to work safely.”

Night-shift cleaner Kirihora Chase, 42, was killed in February, after a piece of mutton cloth she had draped around her neck got caught in a conveyor’s chain drive. Ms Chase had been cleaning around and under the conveyor, used to transport boxes of lamb from the boning room to the chiller, when the mutton cloth she had around her neck became entangled in the chain drive. She was rushed to Palmerston North Hospital but died there from her injuries.

When OSH investigated the accident, it was discovered that the guard covering the chain drive had been worn through, and the chain was exposed to workers. Richmond Ltd did not have an adequate maintenance programme in place to identify the hazard. On this charge, Richmond was fined $39,000 and ordered to pay $50,000 to Ms Chase’s family.

One week later, night-shift cleaner Paula Turner had her hand trapped in another conveyor belt. Ms Turner had stopped the conveyor in order to clean it, but another cleaner was able to restart the conveyor moments later. Her hand was crushed and she requires ongoing treatment.

OSH determined that Richmond failed to protect Ms Turner’s safety because there was no procedure in place to ensure that another cleaner couldn’t reactivate the conveyor while someone else was using it. The company had also failed to adequately train her about the hazards associated with cleaning the conveyor belt. On this charge, Richmond was fined $23,000 and ordered to pay Ms Turner $27,000.

Ms Murphy said the meatworking industry was an inherently dangerous one, and it was a priority for OSH to get alongside companies to help them get their workplace health and safety right.

“Sadly on these occasions, Richmond failed to meet its obligations to two of its workers, and the tragic result was the loss of a life in one accident, and the loss of the use of a hand in the other.”

ENDS

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