Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Affco defending charges after second serious meat-hook injury

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Affco's Rangiuru meatworks near Te Puke is at the centre of second serious injury prosecution. Photo/File
Affco's Rangiuru meatworks near Te Puke is at the centre of second serious injury prosecution. Photo/File

Affco New Zealand has been accused of a raft of health and safety breaches after a second workplace accident in which a worker was seriously injured by a meat spreader hook.

Affco New Zealand Ltd was on trial in the District Court at Tauranga yesterday defending six breaches of the Health and Safety in Employment Act after Jonas Kordt, was seriously injured at its Rangiuru plant last year.

Affco's lawyers argued that there was no evidence to support the charges and they should be dismissed.

WorkSafe New Zealand alleges the company failed to take all practicable steps to ensure the victim was not exposed to hazards.

It further alleges there were inadequate training and sign-off procedures in place on the day of the accident.

On January 15, 2016, Kordt was working on the mutton slaughter floor. He and another worker unsuccessfully tried to pull the hide away from a mutton shoulder, the court was told.

Kordt followed the carcass 5m down the chain to complete the task, and because he was 1.96m tall, he had to stoop down as he followed it.

As he stood up his face was caught between the prongs of the spreader hook, which resulted in him becoming suspended and dragged by the chain.

He was pulled about 1m to 1.5m along the chain and was only released as the two spreader hooks hit the knock-off block. A colleague then pushed the emergency stop button.

Two supervisors were also working on the floor at the time.

Kordt was treated at Tauranga Hospital for a crush head injury, including contusions, lacerations and a chipped molar.

The court heard Kordt's injury followed a similar accident in 2014 involving cleaner Jason Matahiki, who was impaled through the head with a mutton spreader hook on a moving chain.

Affco was prosecuted and fined in relation to that case on some safety and monitoring breaches.

In court yesterday, WorkSafe New Zealand health and safety inspector Darren Young outlined a raft of steps Affco could have taken to ensure Kordt was not harmed.

That included the company's failure to identify the knock-off block area as a potential hazard as it had considered no one worked in the area, he said.

Young said training records showed Kordt should have been more closely supervised and the risk in following the carcass in a no-go area reinforced to him.

Worksafe lawyer Richard Jenson submitted that Affco had failed to identify the trapping point as a hazard.

"Affco, through its prior institutional knowledge after the 2014 incident, knew if they did not get it right in terms of hazard identification there was a risk of serious harm," he said.

Jenson submitted Affco had taken a "reckless attitude" to its health and safety policies and procedures, particularly in communicating this hazard to its employees.

Mark Hammond, defence lawyer for Affco New Zealand Ltd, argued there was no evidence that anyone had any knowledge the area was a potentially serious hazard.

Hammond said the 2014 case and last year's accident were "entirely different".

He placed the injury in the "freakish accident" category, and said "no one could have foreseen" it happening.

Affco had made a "concerted effort" to assess any other potential hazards following the 2014 accident, and had taken "intensive steps" to meet its health and safety obligations, he argued.

The prosecution had failed to prove its case, and the charges should be dismissed due to lack of evidence, Hammond said.

Judge Paul Mabey QC was today expected to deliver his decision on Affco's application to have the charges dismissed.

If the application is unsuccessful the defence will open its case.

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