Amputation incidents lead to more than $0.5 million in fines in New Zealand

WorkSafe calls it 'persistent problem' in manufacturing sector

Amputation incidents lead to more than $0.5 million in fines in New Zealand

Manufacturing organisations in New Zealand have been slapped with penalties reaching a total of over half a million dollars since mid-March, due to employees losing their fingers in incidents WorkSafe called a "persistent problem" within the sector.

WorkSafe unveiled on Wednesday three cases in the manufacturing sector where the employers involved failed to follow basic machine safety standards, resulting to finger amputation in employees.

"All three cases are from the manufacturing sector – which has a persistent problem with machine safeguarding and is one of the country's high-risk industries," said WorkSafe principal inspector Mark Donaghue in a statement.

Amputation cases

In one incident, Thompson Engineering in Timaru was fined $247,500 and ordered to pay reparations of $35,000 after an employee had two fingers amputated and a third degloved in an incident in January 2022.

According to WorkSafe, the incident occurred because of a punch and shear machine that was used when the regular machine was out of order.

In another incident, an employee at Auckland's Anglo Engineering had three fingers partially amputated while using a punch and forming press in March 2022. The organisation was fined $200,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $35,337.

In the third case, Flexicon Plastics in Auckland was fined $74,392 and ordered to pay reparations of $33,000 after an employee amputated two fingers and degloved a third in a workplace incident in August 2022.

The employee was cleaning a machine when it's on/off switch had been knocked into operation because the interlock wasn't functioning, according to WorkSafe.

"Workers should not be suffering harm like this in 2024, and businesses have no excuse," Donaghue said. "WorkSafe has a role to influence business to make sure they keep people healthy and safe – that's why we're speaking out on this issue."

Machine-guarding incidents

According to the inspector, WorkSafe is notified of machine-guarding incidents across the country every week, despite workplaces being required to safeguard machinery since the Machinery Act 1950 took effect.

"More than 70 years later, workplaces still aren't getting it right, with too many workers in Aotearoa being injured and killed from unsafe machinery," Donaghue said.

"If you are unsure whether your safeguarding is up to scratch, engage a qualified expert as soon as possible."

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