Sealord fined $63,000 after man ruptures spleen

Nelson-based fishing company Sealord has been fined $63,400 and ordered to pay $12,500 reparations after a fisherman ruptured his spleen in unsafe working conditions on board one of its vessels.

James Billingham was helping prepare the vessel Ocean Dawn for departure in Nelson when he overbalanced and fell five metres through a hatch and into the ship's hold.

He was taken to hospital and diagnosed with fractured ribs and a sprained thumb.

However, later that day he was readmitted suffering severe abdominal pain and underwent emergency surgery to remove his spleen.

Sealord pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to ensure the safety of an employee in September.

Judge Tony Zohrab fined the company $63,400 and ordered it to pay $12,500 in reparations to Billingham.

Maritime New Zealand director Keith Manch said Billingham would not have fallen if the company had put a hatch cover in place.

"Just identifying the hazard, and minimising it by informing employees - as Sealord had - isn't enough.

The legislation clearly states steps must first be taken to eliminate or isolate the hazard, before minimisation can be considered."

Manch said the prosecution showed Maritime New Zealand was committed to improving the safety of the fishing industry by whatever means necessary.

- Hayden Donnell

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