Charges over amputation

A Dunedin company has been charged over a workplace safety incident in which a man's hand was cut off earlier this year.

The man, who was aged 43 at the time of the accident, had his right hand severed in June while working on machinery at Ellis Fibre Ltd, a Kaikorai Valley company which makes bedding products.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said the company, under the name EF Products Limited Partnership, had been charged under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for a ''failure to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of an employee, while at work''. The maximum penalty for the charge is a $250,000 fine.

The charges were laid this month after a five-month investigation which finished in mid-November. The spokesman declined to comment on how Ellis Fibre Ltd had breached health and safety standards because the matter was before the courts.

Ellis Fibre managing director Glenn Alexander said the company was yet to decide whether to plead guilty to the charge and was waiting for information it had requested from MBIE.

''Once we have that we will assess it in the new year,'' Mr Alexander said.

Asked if he felt the company's health and safety standards were up to standard at the time of the incident, he said: ''We had a comprehensive health and safety plan at the time of the incident, but it's fair to say we have upgraded them even further since.''

A week after the incident, a Department of Labour spokeswoman said the accident qualified as a ''major'' workplace safety incident.

She said the department, which has now become MBIE, had worked with Ellis Fibre to ensure its machinery and machine guarding was up to specifications.

The employee who had his hand cut off was also a professional sculptor, and had since returned to sculpting using specially adapted tools.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

 

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