Affco fined $60k after worker's fall

File Photo / Paul Taylor
File Photo / Paul Taylor

Meat processing company Affco has been fined over $60,000 after one of its employees fell nearly seven metres in a workplace accident last year.

The Hamilton District Court today was told that in March last year an employee suffered multiple compound fractures in their left leg and fractured toes in both feet after falling almost seven metres into a carton well area while working in Affco's Horotiu premises.

Affco was fined $56,250 by the Labour Group of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and ordered to pay $8000 in reparation.

A risk of falling had previously been identified in 2005 when the premises had undergone significant refurbishment.

However, the preventative measures taken, including installing a gate at the top of the well-shaft and providing employees with a fall arrest harness, were not sufficient to prevent the fall on 26 March.

Affco was charged with failing to ensure workplace safety under the the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

"While Affco had taken some steps to mitigate the risk of falling by installing the gate and fall arrest safety harness, the fact is that these measures were neither managed well nor were they adequate at any time," said MBIE Labour Group general manager, John Howard.

"No employee goes to work to be injured. The onus is on the employer to ensure employees are not exposed to harm and potential injury - and in this case the injuries were significant.

"Today's decision sends a clear message to Affco that it needs to both understand the responsibility it holds to its employees and deliver on it," said Mr Howard.

Affco Horotiu Operations Director, Rowan Ogg said the fine was "in the area that we anticipated".

He said although the safety mechanisms were there, they weren't failsafe. Although a harness was provided, it did not necessarily mean that the employee was using it.

Mr Ogg said following the accident an independent safety audit was commissioned across all Affco plants, and as a result the shaft has been rendered inoperable unless safety mechanisms are in place.

"The mechanism is now failsafe."

Mr Ogg did not comment on whether any Affco employees faced disciplinary action following the incident, and said it was an "internal matter".

The injured employee is still employed by Affco.

- APNZ

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