Fletcher fined $55,000 over worker's lost fingers

An accident in which a New Plymouth worker lost three fingers has cost Fletcher Steel $78,500.

The employee was working on a heavy weight folder machine, which folds sheet metal, when his left hand got caught in the machine in March. His hand was crushed and he lost three of his fingers.

Fletcher was convicted under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and fined $55,500 in New Plymouth District Court today.

It had already paid reparations of $23,000.

Department of Labour New Plymouth service manager Jo Pugh said in a statement that even though the company did identify the risk of hands or fingers getting caught in the machine, it did not do enough to protect its employees from harm.

"The accident could have been avoided if the machine was adequately guarded," she said.

"The machine is guarded by a time-out feature that requires two people to operate the machine almost simultaneously otherwise it won't work. The manufacturer's recommended time-out is between 0.75 of a second and one second but Fletcher allowed this to be set at 60 seconds.

"The machine could also have been fitted with a photoelectric safety device that stops the machine if a light beam is broken."

Since the accident Fletcher Steel Limited had installed the photoelectric safety guarding to the machine.

Ms Pugh said the department was seeing too many workplace accidents because machines were not properly guarded and it had started a three-year project focusing on machine guarding standards.

"Health and safety inspectors will be looking at whether effective procedures and systems are in place around machinery to ensure a safe environment," she said.




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