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MPI Sentenced After Workers Exposed To Hazardous Chemicals

Communication is vital when multiple businesses come together to carry out work, says WorkSafe.

The Ministry for Primary Industries was sentenced in Invercargill District Court today for failing to ensure workers were not exposed to hazardous chemicals.

In 2017 in efforts to manage an outbreak of Mycloplasma bovis, MPI contracted biosecurity company AsureQuality who in turn engaged OneStaff to provide temporary workers to assist with cleaning and disinfecting work.

In May 2018 a group of staff were cleaning a farm in Invercargill, using a sodium hydroxide-based cleaner called X-Clean DOO AWAY, which had in April been approved by MPI as a cleaning product generally. The workers were given personal protective equipment, including gloves. However the chemicals seeped into the cuffs of the workers gloves and as a result eight workers sustained burns to hands, wrists, and arms.

A WorkSafe investigation into the incident found MPI failed to adequately consult, co-operate and co-ordinate with the other parties to ensure work was being carried out safely. Additionally MPI failed to ensure a safe system of work for the OneStaff workers.

WorkSafe’s Investigation Manager for the South Island Steve Kelly said both MPI and AsureQuality were working together but it was unclear which organisation was ensuring various risks were being managed.

“As the organisation tasked with managing the eradication of Mycoplasma bovis it is fair to have expected them to ensure cleaning and disinfecting work was carried out safely.

“When multiple businesses and organisations are involved in carrying out work it is vital they communicate with one another to ensure risk has been identified and is being correctly managed.”

Today MPI was fined $30,000. Last November, in response to the 2018 incident, AsureQuality were fined $66,000. OneStaff were also fined $38,500.

Reparation of $5000 was ordered to be split between five victims with all three parties including MPI, paying one third each.

Notes:

- Ministry for Primary Industries was sentenced at the Invercargill District Court on Thursday 11 February.

- A fine of $30,000 was imposed.

- Reparation of $1666 was ordered.

- Ministry for Primary Industries was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 49(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

- Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, did fail to comply with that duty.

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