Affco has been ordered to pay almost $300,000 in fines and reparations after a worker at its Moerewa meatworks was left with serious burns over most of his body after he opened a boiler's door.
A man, in his 30s, was seriously injured at the Affco Moerewa site about 7pm on July 19, 2018. He received serious burns to most of his body, was in an induced coma for six weeks and spent a further two weeks in hospital.
The man, who has name suppression, has not worked since the accident and still needs further skin grafts and operations.
Affco pleaded guilty to one charge laid under the Health and Safety in Employment Act in a case brought by Worksafe and was sentenced in Whangārei District Court yesterday by Judge Duncan Harvey.
Judge Harvey fixed a starting point for reparation for the worker at $75,000 then gave a discount for the work Affco had done with the man since the accident - with CEO Nigel Stevens flying up to spend time with him in hospital the day after the accident; the company paying around $31,000 to help him and his family; and after a restorative justice meeting between the man and Stevens - reducing the final reparations to $65,000.
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The judge set the starting point for the fine at $472,500, then with discounts for mitigating features; the company's remorse, the actions it had taken to rectify the issues with the boiler - including spending about $2 million on changes to make it safer - and early guilty plea this was reduced to $230,343.75. The company was also ordered to pay Worksafe $1123.86 for legal fees.
The injured man had started at Affco Moerewa a few months before the accident and had been trained up, over about 17 shifts, to be a sole-charge operator of the boiler.
On the night in question, the man noticed there was a build-up of solid fuel (coal) just inside the door of the furnace and as he opened the door, the fuel changed from dark to glowing red. The man turned away, but felt the blast from the furnace, which left him with the significant injuries.
Judge Harvey said the man was not wearing the suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) that was provided for the job and had a history of not wearing PPE while on the job.
This, and the company's lack of dealing with this not wearing of the safety equipment and lack of policies or procedures to ensure he was, added to Affco's culpability.
Judge Harvey said the man for some reason did not open the furnace door as per company policy - from the side so any flaring would not hit them - but instead opened it from directly in front.
He said the company's training for the man to be a sole charge operator of the boiler was inadequate.
''The danger [of operating the boiler] was clear as the defendant had made it a requirement for operators to use PPE. The risk from not [wearing PPE] was obvious,'' the judge said.
"It was important to ensure that [the worker] had adequate training before he was given the sole charge of the boiler and appropriate monitoring and supervision was carried out as well.''
■ Affco has a resource consent to shift its boiler about 280m northeast of the existing boiler room on the Moerewa site.