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Worker hospitalised after respiratory equipment fails

9 August 2012

Worker hospitalised after respiratory equipment fails

The hospitalisation of an Auckland Pack & Cool Limited worker has resulted in the company being fined $84,625 and ordered to pay reparation of $12,250 for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employee.

The Manukau District Court heard yesterday that the worker lost consciousness from lack of oxygen while retrieving kiwifruit samples from coolstores operated by the company in July last year.

The worker and one of his colleagues entered the coolstores – temperature controlled environments made up of 2% oxygen and 5% carbon dioxide – using a dual airline supplied air respirator.

“The worker’s breathing apparatus malfunctioned and he passed out unconscious on the floor. Neither his colleague nor another employee nearby were able to pull the unconscious man from the coolstore. He was finally rescued by one of the directors of the company,” says Northern health and safety manager for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, John Howard.

The workers administered CPR until emergency services arrived and revived the man. He was then taken by ambulance to hospital where he remained in recovery for three days.

“This man is very lucky to be alive. MBIE’s investigations concluded that he was given inappropriate breathing equipment to carry out work in this hazardous oxygen-deprived environment. Infact, Auckland Pack & Cool did not follow the manufacturer’s instructions which explicitly stated that the respirator should not be used in ‘areas where atmospheres are oxygen deficient” - the type of environment that the worker was required in work in,” Mr Howard says.

“This accident is a timely reminder for all employers to use the right equipment for the job, and ensure all employees are trained to work safely in hazardous environments. It is also extremely important to ensure that emergency procedures are effective and well-rehearsed.

“Proper hazard identification in the workplace can prevent serious harm and save lives,” Mr Howard says.

Auckland Pack & Cool Limited appeared in the Manukau District Court on Wednesday 8 August. They were charged with two charges under Section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. This states:

Every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work; and in particular shall take all practicable steps to—

(a) provide and maintain for employees a safe working environment; and

(b) provide and maintain for employees while they are at work facilities for their safety and health; and

(c) ensure that plant used by any employee at work is so arranged, designed, made, and maintained that it is safe for the employee to use; and

(d) ensure that while at work employees are not exposed to hazards arising out of the arrangement, disposal, manipulation, organisation, processing, storage, transport, working, or use of things—
• (i) in their place of work; or
• (ii) near their place of work and under the employer's control; and

(e) develop procedures for dealing with emergencies that may arise while employees are at work.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 is available online.


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