Affco New Zealand has been fined $70,000 and ordered to pay $10,000 to the victim of a second workplace accident involving serious injuries from a meat hook spreader.
On January 15 last year staff member Jonas Kordt was working on the mutton slaughter floor at Affco's Rangiuru plant when he was seriously injured.
Yesterday, Judge Paul Mabey QC sentenced Affco New Zealand Limited in the Tauranga District Court, fining the company $70,000 and ordered the company to pay $10,000 emotional harm reparation to the victim immediately.
The sentence followed the serious injury of Kordt last year. The victim and another worker unsuccessfully tried to pull the hide away from a mutton shoulder, and the victim stooped down to follow the carcass along the chain.
As he stood up his face was caught between the prongs of the spreader hook.
He was then dragged up to 1.5m along the chain until his head hit a metal knock-off block. Kordt's head was crushed and he suffered cuts, bruising and a chipped molar.
Affco defended three breaches of the Health and Safety in Employment Act at a judge-alone trial in Tauranga District Court back in May.
Judge Paul Mabey QC reserved his decision after hearing legal submissions.
Among the points at issue was whether Affco should have identified the knock-off block as a hazard before the January 15 accident.
Affco's lawyer Mark Hammond argued there was no evidence anyone had any knowledge the area was a potentially serious trapping hazard.
Kordt's incident followed a similar accident in 2014 involving cleaner Jason Matahiki, who was impaled through his head with a mutton spreader hook on a moving chain.
Affco was convicted and ordered to pay a total of $89,000 in fines and reparation in relation to that case on some safety and monitoring breaches.
Read that story here.
Hammond argued the 2014 conviction case was "entirely different" in regards to the circumstances and Affco had taken "intensive" steps to meet its health and safety obligations since that time.
He argued the charges should be dismissed due to a lack of evidence.
Judge Mabey disagreed and in September convicted Affco on two of the three charges laid by WorkSafe New Zealand including that Affco failed to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employee Jonas Kordt was not exposed to hazards arising out of work on the mutton chain.
Affco was also convicted of failing to ensure Kordt was adequately trained in the safe use of all plant and objects the employee used or may be required to use or handle.
In his written sentencing decision Judge Mabey said he did not accept that Affco's culpability was in the lower range.
"Given the aggravating factor that Affco was clearly on notice after the 2014 incident I consider that a starting point beyond that adopted by the High Court for that incident is appropriate."
Judge Mabey said the failure by experienced Affco staff, aware of the 2014 incident, to identify the knock-off block as a trapping hazard compounded Affco's failure to take the practicable step of hazard identification.
"Again for the reasons I have referred to, an uplift for Affco's previous convictions is justified," Judge Mabey said.
"Affco did, as it should, take care of Kordt after the injury and was clearly co-operative with the Worksafe investigation. Remedial steps were taken after the accident, as they should be, and I am satisfied that reparation will be paid immediately."
Outside court, Hammond said despite the two convictions, the defendant took its health and safety obligations seriously. He declined to comment further.
Kordt, a German national, has returned to his homeland.
WorkSafe's acting deputy general manager Investigations and Specialist Services Simon Humphries described the 2014 and 2016 accidents as "concerningly similar".
"Learning from failings is critical – Affco must now focus hard on identifying and controlling risks in all its operations."