The District Court has ordered an employer to pay $425,000 after breaches of its health and safety obligations resulted in serious injuries to an employee.

The employee was told to install some equipment on a machine that was located in a secure room. When working the machine would fill the room with hot steam.

The door to the upper level of the machine that the employee was working on used to have a padlock. The lock had gone missing and was never replaced. There were also no warning signs.

The machine operators were told maintenance work was taking place and the employee entered the secure room.

The operator saw that the general maintenance was completed, but was unaware that the employee was still in the upper level.

He turned the machine on and began the startup sequence which blew heated steam into the room. The employee tried to leave, but suffered serious burns.

The employer admitted to the breaches and the Court noted that several failings led to the incident. It was pointed out that manual checks should have been made to ensure nobody was still inside the secure room before turning the machine on.

Additionally, an interlock device could easily have been installed on the doors to prevent the machine turning on if there was still someone in the room.

The Court ordered the employer to pay the employee $60,000 in reparation and imposed a fine of $365,000.

Where there is a serious risk to the safety of employees, employers must take all steps reasonably practicable to eliminate or minimise the risks. In this case, a risk assessment would have identified the risks to an employee inside the room and the deficient process when reactivating the machinery.

If there are concerns about the health and safety practices or policies in your workplace, it is wise to speak with a professional experienced in the area.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-priced 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.