The District Court has recently ordered a company to pay over $210,000 after their health and safety failures lead to an employee being hospitalised for 10 days.

The employee was cleaning the company’s machinery as part of his job duties. The machine which caused the injury was turned off at the time the employee went to clean it. However, the nature of the machine meant that parts of it were still moving.

As the employee went to clean part of the machine, his hand was caught by one of the moving parts and was pulled into the machine. The employee had to spend 10 days in hospital and undergo three surgeries to reconstruct his hand, resulting in the loss of parts of his fingers.

The District Court had to determine whether the employee had been injured because of inadequate health and safety measures. As a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking, the company had a duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its employees.

In this case, the employee had received some training on how to safely clean the machines. However, there was no adequate guarding implemented on the area of the machine which caused the employee’s injury.

The company had not recognised that part of the machine as a risk in their risk assessments. However, evidence showed that employees were aware that the area was a “nip point”.

The Court decided that the company had relied on previous practice to stop employees going near that part of the machine, rather than install adequate guarding.  The company should have implemented guarding, given that they knew the machine was a health and safety risk to employees.

The Court concluded that relying on past practice is not an effective health and safety measure. The company should have monitored and reviewed the effectiveness of their safety procedures, as well as carried out proper risk assessments for the machines.

The Court also noted that there was a real risk that the employee could have been killed in the incident, given that there were no safety systems which would have shut the machine down had he been pulled in. Therefore, the company’s failures were serious.

The starting point of the fine was set at $350,000. The fine was reduced after accounting for the company’s guilty plea, remorse, support for the victim, co-operation and more. The final fine was set at $175,000.

The company was also ordered to pay $30,000 to the employee for emotional harm, as well as over $7,000 in costs.

It is important to be aware of your health and safety obligations as a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking. If you are confused about these obligations, it is vital to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors