Silver Fern Farms is not taking its responsibilities lightly, it says, and has completed a company-wide inspection and corrective action programme since a serious accident partially amputated two of one of its’ workers fingers.
The meat processor was fined $50,000 last week and an employee of Silver Fern Farms’ Waitoa plant was awarded $20,000 in emotional harm reparation at the Morrinsville District Court after two of his fingers were partially amputated in a workplace accident.
The accident happened in October last year, when an employee was working with a hock cutter, which developed a fault. The tool could not be isolated from its power source at the workstation so it was placed to one side in a sterilising bath pending maintenance. However, the employee then needed to use the sterilising bath while working with a replacement manual cutter, so he hooked the faulty tool over the guard rail behind him. The victim, concerned for the safety of that employee, attempted to lift the faulty cutter over the guard rail. As he moved it, the cutter activated, partially amputating his two fingers.
An investigation revealed that the company had failed to follow the manufacturers’ maintenance instructions to ensure correct operation of the dual triggers prior to use each day.
“The workers should have been able to isolate the cutter from its power source from the work station and the cutters should have been tested daily to ensure the correct operation of the dual triggers,” the Health and Safety Group’s chief inspector investigations Keith Stewart said.
“Silver Fern Farms’ plant operates dangerous machinery – the hazards are obvious and so are the controls. The fine and reparation in this case should serve as a warning to all employers that they must look after the safety of employees at work,” said Stewart.
Gary Williams, Silver Fern Farms’ employment relations manager says, “We believe that all injuries are preventable, so clearly we regret and are deeply sorry for what has happened to Tamati Parkes and family. We are providing on-going support and rehabilitation for Tamati to ensure he has a speedy recovery.
“As a result of the accident, we have modified the equipment Tamati was injured with to ensure there is no possibility of a repeat. We have also completed a company-wide inspection and corrective action programme on all similar equipment at all our processing sites, to ensure any similar equipment in our business is safe.
“We have had for a number of years a Zero Harm project across the business covering health and safety in the workplace, this has recently been escalated to Project Ora. The purpose of this initiative is aimed at implementing world class health and safety practices to achieve our goal of zero harm in the workplace. As Silver Fern Farms Limited is an industry leader, we are expected to provide innovation and direction in this important area of our business and we do not intend to take that responsibility lightly.”
Silver Fern Farms was charged under Section 6 and Section 50 (1) (a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the employee was not exposed to the risk of harm from the cutter.