An employer has been fined $280,000 after an employee adjusted some machinery settings which allowed him to use the machine one-handed. The employee exposed his other hand and ended up losing his thumb and having his fingers partially amputated.

The employee was taught during his training that the machine settings could be changed so that the machinery could be operated with one hand rather than two. While the employee was operating the machine with one hand, his other hand came into contact with the machine.

The employee was taken to hospital but had to have several fingers partially amputated, and his thumb wholly amputated.

The District Court had to determine whether the employer, as a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking, had failed to fulfil its health and safety obligations.

The Court decided that the employer had failed to implement proper systems and processes to deal with workplace risks. This meant that those risks were not adequately identified or managed in the workplace.

The Court also determined that the machine’s settings should not have been able to be changed. The two-handed safety method should have been non-adjustable.

The employer also failed to give proper safety instructions to its employees, and failed to monitor and supervise employees effectively. This meant that the employer could not ensure continuing compliance with workplace safety procedures.

In particular, the employer should have ensured that the employee was given adequate safety training when it came to operating the machinery. In fact, the Court held that the training the employee received was dangerous.

These failures meant that the employer had failed to fulfil its health and safety obligations. The Court ordered the employer to pay a fine of $280,000, reparations of $40,000 for emotional harm, and $8,000 for consequential loss.

It is vital to be aware of your health and safety obligations. If you are confused about these obligations, it pays 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
Wellington