In two recent cases businesses have been fined significant amounts for their poor processes in identifying risks and eliminating hazards from their workplaces. The District Court has fined an employer over $304,000 and ordered it to pay reparation of $238,000 after one of its employees was injured at work.

The employee was unloading a piece of machinery when it slipped and the worker was thrown off the machine.  He suffered severe injuries and is paralysed. At the time of the incident the employee was not wearing a harness which is a required safety device when working on this type of machinery.  In addition he was not trained in the use of the machinery. The Court found that the employee should never have been using the machinery without being trained and without using the proper safety equipment.

Businesses should ensure that they fully investigate the risks in their workplace and take all practical steps to eliminate or minimise those risks.  They should ensure that, as part of that process, all staff are properly trained in the use of the equipment and use all required safety devices.

In the other case an employer was fined $250,000 after an employee was injured. The company was fined $250,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $32,500 after the employee suffered damage to two fingers after placing their hand inside a machine while it was operating.  The machine was inadequately guarded.

To make matters worse the company had received 10 notices in relation to health and safety issues in the three years preceding the injury and most of these related to machine guarding problems.  The company had not taken its obligations seriously in relation to protecting its employees from being injured by the machines they were working on and therefore a prosecution was necessary.

Employers must identify hazards in the workplace and put in place processes to eliminate or minimise the risk from those hazards in order to meet the requirements of Health and Safety legislation. The employer must provide the resources necessary to do the identification and planning and they must also ensure that their processes are followed and that everyone is properly trained.