An Auckland fruit and vegetable processing firm has pleaded guilty to health and safety charges over incidents that saw three workers lose fingers. Prepared Produce was sentenced in the Manukau District Court, fined $196,406.25 for six offences and ordered to pay $57,000 in reparation to the victims
The incidents took place over an 18-month period and all involved finger amputations while operating belt slicer machines. The first was in July 2013 when a worker had his right middle finger and the tip of his ring finger cut off.
The second took place in November 2014 when a worker suffered a partial amputation of his right ring, middle and index fingers. The third incident occurred in November 2014 when an employee had his right index and middle fingers sliced off.
Prepared Produce did not tell the workplace health and safety regulator about any of the accidents. Instead WorkSafe only became aware after the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union made a complaint in December 2014.
In its decision, the Court found that an inadequately guarded belt slicer poses an obvious risk to employees. Following the first accident, Prepared Produce Limited should have been put on notice and responded appropriately.
WorkSafe chief inspector Keith Stewart said if the regulator had been told initially, the other two incidents could have been prevented.
“It is a requirement under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to notify WorkSafe of any serious harm occurrence. By putting in place a few key steps, these disabling injuries could have been stopped.”