Companies fined over hand injury

By Sandra Conchie of the Bay of Plenty Times -
Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Two Bay of Plenty companies have been fined $65,000 and ordered to pay $10,000 to a woman who suffered a horrific hand injury while unloading fish at Mt Maunganui.

The 22-year-old Pelco NZ employee was unloading tuna from the Sanford-owned 61.2-metre fishing vessel Ocean Breeze when her hand was dragged into a winch, and the flesh "de-gloved".

The accident happened in December 2011.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) prosecuted both companies under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of the people working on the job.

The defendants failed to ensure that a winch used for lifting a bucket on to the ship could be operated safely, MNZ said.

Both companies pleaded guilty to the charge, which has a maximum penalty of $250,000.

In Tauranga District Court earlier this week, Sanford was fined $32,500 and Pelco NZ $22,500.

The companies were also ordered to pay $5000 each to the victim.

The summary of facts revealed Pelco NZ was contracted by Sanford to unload, process and blast freeze fish caught on the boat, using a large bucket connected to a winch and rail system.

The winch was designed to run freely along a rail so loads could be moved left to right, but was not doing so on the day of the accident.

While the victim was waiting to receive a bucket from the hold, it became caught under the hatch combing.

Rather than using the safety rope to pull the winch, the victim pulled the rope connected to the bucket.

When it suddenly came free her hand was dragged into the winch and badly cut in several places.

She underwent surgery and was unable to work for 30 days.

Earlier that day, a winch operator had complained to a Sanford crew member that the winch was not sliding properly but the problem was not addressed by Sanford nor reported to a Pelco NZ supervisor.

The summary of facts also revealed two Pelco NZ employees had previously suffered injuries in similar circumstances involving the same winch on board the Ocean Breeze.

Pelco NZ did not formally report these two incidents to Sanford. MNZ said Pelco NZ had failed to note the winch rail system as a specific ship hazard.

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