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Unsafe Machinery Costs Digits And Dollars

Courts have imposed more than half a million dollars in penalties since mid-March, in cases where workers have lost fingers on machinery that wasn’t kept safe by businesses.

“Businesses must manage their risks to keep workers safe. In each of these cases there was a failure to follow basic machine safety standards. WorkSafe investigated and prosecuted the cases as part of our role to hold businesses to account when they fall short on health and safety,” says WorkSafe principal inspector Mark Donaghue.

“All three cases are from the manufacturing sector – which has a persistent problem with machine safeguarding and is one of the country’s high-risk industries.”

One worker had two fingers amputated and a third degloved in a punch and shear machine, when the regular machine was out of order at Thompson Engineering in Timaru in January 2022. The business was recently fined $247,500 and ordered to pay reparations of $35,000.

Another worker had three fingers partially amputated while using a punch and forming press at Auckland’s Anglo Engineering in March 2022. In sentencing, Judge Lisa Tremewan referred to “an unintended complacency” and that “it is critical that robust practices are employed by those within the relevant industries”. A fine of $200,000 was imposed, and reparations of $35,337 were ordered.

And a third worker was cleaning a machine when it amputated two fingers and degloved a third at Flexicon Plastics in Auckland in August 2022. The machine’s on/off switch had been knocked into operation because the interlock wasn’t functioning. A fine of $74,392 was imposed, and reparations of $33,000 ordered.

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“If you are unsure whether your safeguarding is up to scratch, engage a qualified expert as soon as possible,” says WorkSafe’s Mark Donaghue.

“These sorts of incidents are avoidable. Workers should not be suffering harm like this in 2024, and businesses have no excuse. WorkSafe is notified of machine guarding incidents from across the country every week, and is regularly prohibiting dangerous machinery as part of its proactive and targeted assessments. WorkSafe has a role to influence business to make sure they keep people healthy and safe - that's why we're speaking out on this issue.”

Workplaces have been required to safeguard machinery since the Machinery Act 1950 took effect. But more than 70 years later, workplaces still aren’t getting it right, with too many workers in Aotearoa being injured and killed from unsafe machinery.

Read more about safety with power presses 
Read more about machinery lock outs

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