A never-end­ing jour­ney

Busi­nesses can never let down their guard when it comes to work­place health and safety.

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A range of health and safety ini­tia­tives are to be put in place at NZHot­house as the re­sult of an in­ci­dent in July 2016 where work­ers were ex­posed to car­bon monox­ide.

Di­rec­tor Si­mon Wat­son (pic­tured) said it was a sharp re­minder that busi­nesses could never let down their guard and that the as­sess­ment of the work­place was a never-end­ing jour­ney. “Fail­ure to ad­e­quately iden­tify and deal with a po­ten­tial hazard re­sult­ing in a staff mem­ber and two con­trac­tors be­ing harmed,” he said.

“We re­gret that our sys­tem fail­ure al­lowed this to oc­cur.”

Two Airtech work­ers were clean­ing an evap­o­ra­tor unit in a chiller, us­ing an LPG fork­lift op­er­ated by an NZHot­house worker at its Karaka pack­house, south of Auck­land. Af­ter two hours, dur­ing which the fork­lift was work­ing for about half the time, one Airtech worker felt ill, stopped work­ing and an am­bu­lance was called. The Airtech worker and the NZHot­house worker con­tin­ued work­ing for about 20

min­utes af­ter which they ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar symp­toms and both fainted. The Fire Ser­vice mea­sured car­bon monox­ide lev­els in the chiller at 500 parts per mil­lion (ppm), the high­est read­ing a de­tec­tor can make. The work­ers were treated in hos­pi­tal with two re­ceiv­ing spe­cial­ist med­i­cal care at Devon­port Naval Base to un­dergo de­com­pres­sion.

Both com­pa­nies were charged un­der the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and were both granted en­force­able un­der­tak­ings which the af­fected em­ploy­ees were sup­port­ive of. Airtech was found not to have iden­ti­fied or mit­i­gated the risk of car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing in the chiller, and NZHot­house had not de­vel­oped and im­ple­mented a safe sys­tem of work for use of LPG fork­lifts or de­vel­oped and autho­rised an ad­e­quate con­trac­tor man­age­ment sys­tem.

WorkSafe chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, Phil Parkes, said the busi­nesses had learned from their mis­takes and de­vel­oped so­lu­tions and ini­tia­tives that wouldn’t just pre­vent a sim­i­lar oc­cur­rence in their busi­nesses but would also help oth­ers. NZHot­house ex­pressed re­gret that the in­ci­dent oc­curred, ac­knowl­edg­ing that car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing could be fa­tal.

It im­me­di­ately took re­me­dial ac­tion to ad­dress the work prac­tices that led to the in­ci­dent. LPG fork­lifts were re­placed with elec­tric fork­lifts and a car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tion sys­tem was in­stalled in the cool store. It im­ple­mented a lock out and tag out process for work­ers and trained them in its use. It also pro­vided ad­di­tional health and safety train­ing, de­vel­oped and printed safety aware­ness posters, put in place an in­ter­ac­tive health and safety in­for­ma­tion sta­tion, pro­duced an emer­gency pro­ce­dure and first aid plan and started weekly safety walk­a­bouts to find any risks that re­quired im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion.

Un­der NZHot­house’s en­force­able un­der­tak­ing the com­pany and its re­lated com­pany, KPH Pro­duce, com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing amends in the form of pay­ment, sup­port and Ac­ci­dent Com­pen­sa­tion Cor­po­ra­tion (ACC) top-up to the vic­tims >

It also is of­fer­ing staff one paid safety day to at­tend a course, con­fer­ence or safety event, con­duct­ing an in-house safety day for all staff and run­ning a half-day mock in­ci­dent drill to not only test NZHot­house’s sys­tem but also as­sist emer­gency ser­vices to test theirs in a live en­vi­ron­ment.

As well as un­der­tak­ing an ini­tial au­dit as­sess­ment of OHSAS 18001 or ISO 450001 in­ter­na­tional health and safety sys­tem man­age­ment stan­dards by Te­larc a full au­dit will be car­ried out in the next six months.

NZHot­house has also agreed to carry out ac­tiv­i­ties to pro­mote the ob­jects of the safety leg­is­la­tion that will de­liver ben­e­fits to the wider sec­tor. These will in­volve com­mis­sion­ing a re­port on the ben­e­fits of worker safety in hor­ti­cul­ture by im­ple­ment­ing lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy ini­tia­tives. The aim will be to iden­tify the gap be­tween work­ers’ cur­rent lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy skills and those re­quired of work­ers to mean­ing­fully en­gage with key health and safety con­cepts and will in­volve four phases.

The first will be cre­at­ing a lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy needs anal­y­sis tool to iden­tify com­pe­ten­cies work­ers need to have to iden­tify haz­ards and risks in their jobs and com­mu­ni­cate when con­di­tions change. They should be able to use ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage to ex­press their thoughts and views on health and safety mat­ters and should have or be taught ac­tive lis­ten­ing skills to con­sider the views of other work­ers, rep­re­sen­ta­tives and man­age­ment. Work­ers should un­der­stand risk man­age­ment strate­gies and par­tic­i­pate in health and safety sys­tems by re­port­ing near misses, in­ci­dents and ac­ci­dents.

NZHot­house also un­der­took to de­velop a pre and post-eval­u­a­tion tool so man­age­ment could can­vas worker en­gage­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion in health and safety.

The se­cond phase will be ap­ply­ing the tool to ran­domly se­lected groups of work­ers through­out the coun­try as well as 10 of its work­ers with them all com­plet­ing a short, writ­ten as­sess­ment. The gaps in worker nu­mer­acy and lit­er­acy will be as­sessed so that the learn­ing out­comes to ad­dress those gaps can be de­vel­oped. The third phase will be work­place lit­er­acy provider, Ed­vance, de­vel­op­ing and de­liv­er­ing 40 hours of lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy train­ing for the 10 NZHot­house work­ers in two groups in two-hour ses­sions held ev­ery week for 20 weeks. The in­for­ma­tion gath­ered will be re­ported along with rec­om­men­da­tions, strate­gies and learn­ings other com­pa­nies could use. The fi­nal phase will be pro­mot­ing those find­ings to the wider in­dus­try through an ar­ti­cle in NZGrower and The Or­chardist and a pre­sen­ta­tion to be made to next year’s HortNZ Con­fer­ence.

The com­pany will also cre­ate a hor­ti­cul­ture safety in­tern pro­gramme in sup­port of the Franklin com­mu­nity. A lo­cal school leaver will be of­fered a six-month in­tern­ship to be trained, men­tored and sup­ported in learn­ing about health and safety in the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try. The aim is to make this a gate­way into health and safety for a young per­son, par­tic­u­larly

The pro­gramme would pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with the wider NZ hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try to cre­ate a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of health and safety and im­prove out­comes which would ul­ti­mately im­prove ac­ci­dent sta­tis­tics.

some­one who would like to make their ca­reer in this area. They will be paid wages and at­tend train­ing to gain a fork­lift li­cense, a first aid cer­tifi­cate and an Em­ploy­ers and Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (EMA) na­tional cer­tifi­cate in oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety (level three).

Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand sup­ported the en­force­able un­der­tak­ing as an al­ter­na­tive to pros­e­cu­tion. Its chief ex­ec­u­tive, Mike Chap­man, said it be­lieved the pro­gramme would pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with the wider NZ hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try to cre­ate a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of health and safety and im­prove out­comes which would ul­ti­mately im­prove ac­ci­dent sta­tis­tics.

Wat­son said NZHot­house was ap­pre­cia­tive that the en­force­able un­der­tak­ing process would al­low it to work with its staff to help in­crease their un­der­stand­ing of the com­pany’s health and safety sys­tems and the im­por­tant role they played.

“We are look­ing for­ward to shar­ing our learn­ings with the greater hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try through the es­tab­lish­ment of a mean­ing­ful train­ing pro­gramme to as­sist work­ers and busi­nesses to elim­i­nate risk and op­er­ate in a gen­uinely safe work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

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