Company lets its guard down
A Porirua plastics manufacturing company, which has been prosecuted in the past for failing to guard machinery, has been fined $45,000 for a similar offence.
In the latest incident, Kiwi Plastic Company Limited was convicted of failing to guard two of its bag-sealing machines.
During an unannounced visit, Department of Labour inspectors found the guards had been removed for about three months.
The investigation also found an employee had been taught to over-ride automatic shut down mechanisms.
Kiwi Plastics and its director, Angelus Tay, were prosecuted for similar offences in 2002 when three employees were seriously injured.
The department has made several visits to the company since then and issued a number of warnings and improvement notices.
There have also been 32 negotiated agreements with the company to improve work practices.
The department’s Wellington service manger, Dave Hulston says this persistent offending is unacceptable.
‘‘ We’ve worked with this company to try to improve procedures and the $45,000 fine sends a very strong mess- age to other employers to take machine guarding in the workplace seriously.’’
Mr Hulston says the case relates to two side-sealer machines used to manufacture plastic supermarket bags which have heat sealers running at about 210 degrees Celsius and hole punches that can potentially cause serious injury.
In a reserved sentencing decision District Court Judge Broadmore said Mr Tay ‘‘talked the talk’’ on workplace safety, but ‘‘walking the walk’’ was also essential. Judge Broadmore said the company accepted this and admitted its safety record was mostly ‘‘minimum compliance’’.
The judge said the company’s success in avoiding injuries to its employees in the recent past had been attributable to increased vigilance by the Department of Labour.
The Department has a project under way to reduce the number and severity of machinery-related accidents.
The Safe Use of Machinery project involves inspectors visiting companies using machinery and talking to employers about machine guarding and reminding them of their responsibilities under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 to keep employees safe while at work.