Businesses fined more than $500,000 after workers lose fingers

By and is republished with permission

Three manufacturing businesses have been hit with more than $500,000 in penalties since mid-March after workers lost fingers in unsafe machinery.

All three incidents — investigated and prosecuted by WorkSafe — involved a “failure to follow basic machine safety standards”, WorkSafe principal inspector Mark Donaghue said today in statement.

“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.”

In the first case, a worker at Thompson Engineering in Timaru had two fingers amputated while a third was degloved after getting caught in a punch and shear machine in January 2022. The regular machine had been out of order. The business was recently fined $247,500 and ordered to pay reparations of $35,000.

It was followed by a worker who had three fingers partially amputated while using a punch and forming press at Anglo Engineering, in Auckland, in March 2022. In sentencing, Judge Lisa Tremewan referred to “an unintended complacency” at the business and that it is “critical that robust practices are employed by those within the relevant industries”. A fine of $200,000 was imposed, and reparations of $35,337 were ordered.

In the third case, a worker at Fleixon Plastics in Auckland had been cleaning a machine when it amputated two fingers and degloved a third in August 2022. An on/off switch had been knocked into operation because the interlock wasn’t functioning. A fine of $74,392 was imposed, and reparations of $33,000 were ordered.

“These sorts of incidents are avoidable. Workers should not be suffering harm like this in 2024, and businesses have no excuse,” Donaghue said.

“WorkSafe is notified of machine guarding incidents from across the country every week and is regularly prohibiting dangerous machinery as part of its proactive and targeted assessments. 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.”

Donaghue advised businesses that are uncertain about “whether your safeguarding is up to scratch” to speak to a qualified expert.

Workplaces have been required to safeguard machinery since the Machinery Act 1950 took effect.

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