Firms pay out $220,000 over workplace injuries

By Kiri Gillespie

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Marc Fenton was awarded $65,000 after he lost his leg in work accident at a sawmill.
Marc Fenton was awarded $65,000 after he lost his leg in work accident at a sawmill.

Five Western Bay firms have been ordered to pay more than $220,000 in fines and reparation for serious workplace injuries during the past three years.

The information - released to the Bay of Plenty Times by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment under the Official Information Act - includes details of a case involving a worker who suffered crush injuries after getting caught under hoist machinery.

In another case a worker suffered fracture injuries after fingers were trapped in a lift conveyer. Improvement notices were issued in both cases and a prohibition notice issued for the latter.

In May this year a builder working on a garage roof for Greenway Developments broke his jaw and wrist after falling 2.4m from timber wall framing.

Managing director Stefan Greenway accepted there was no scaffolding or edge protection but said the Government placed unrealistic and unfair pressure on employers to meet health and safety expectations that were over the top.

Firms, particularly small businesses, struggled to meet requirements and recommendations the ministry suggested, he said.

Some measures were not mandatory but if an injury occurred and the employer failed to provide safety gear as suggested, the company was then liable for failing to "take reasonable steps to provide a safe workplace". "They are putting small businesses like mine in with places that employ 100 people and have fulltime HR staff. It's just not realistic."

His company had operated for 20 years without incident - until May, he said. It was issued a prohibition notice and had to enter into two negotiated agreements with the ministry after the accident.

"Accidents happen. It's unrealistic to think they don't."

At Volare restaurant in January last year, a man's arm became stuck in a pasta machine. As the man lifted the lid to check the mix, his left arm became caught around the mixing rod and he suffered several fractures, soft tissue damage and tendon and nerve damage. The machine's interlock switch was broken, meaning it did not automatically stop when the lid was opened.

Allegro, which owns Volare, was prosecuted and fined $20,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $6000.

The ministry investigated 60 incidents in the Western Bay this year compared to 95 cases in 2012 and 126 in 2011.

North Island Mussel Processors was at the centre of four health and safety incidents the ministry had investigated since 2011. The company went into receivership last year.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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