Fines over chemical burns during M Bovis outbreak

Two companies have been fined more than $100,000 after workers suffered chemical burns while carrying out disinfecting during a suspected Mycoplasma bovis outbreak on a Southland farm.

The charges relate to an incident on May 17, 2018 when five staff were taken to hospital after suffering minor or superficial burns to their arms, faces or hands as a result of contact with a chemical product.

AsureQuality Limited and OneStaff (Queenstown/Invercargill) Limited were sentenced today at Invercargill District Court after pleading guilty following a prosecution from WorkSafe.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is also being prosecuted but denied the two charges brought against it.

MPI and Asure Quality were facing charges of exposing individuals to risk of harm or illness and failed to comply with health and safety duties.

OneStaff faced one charge of failing to comply with health and safety duties.

Worksafe prosecutor Katie Hogan said AsureQuality was engaged by MPI to deliver cleaning and disinfection as part of the response to Mycoplasma bovis.

The company contracted Industrial Scrub and Sweep (SI) Limited (ISS) to carry out the cleaning and disinfecting work at the infected farms and approached OneStaff for temporary workers as demand increased.

Ms Hogan said on April 26 2018 a group of temporary OneStaff workers commenced the work at a potentially infected farm.

Ms Hogan said because of time pressures and MPI criticism of cleaning work to date, ISS decided to introduce the use of the sodium hydroxide-based cleaner to clean a shed at the SDC farm.

On that day, while conducting the cleaning and disinfecting work, one of the workers felt a burning sensation on her arms and then seven others also had superficial burns.

Ms Hogan said both companies failed to ensure the workers - who were given a general induction - were given adequate training, information and instruction.

She also highlighted the correct personal protective equipment was not given to the staff and the companies also failed  to ensure adequate supervision of the workers.

Judge Russell Walker fined AsureQuality and ordered it to pay $66,000 plus court costs of $2392,93, and fined and ordered OneStaff to pay $38,500 and the same amount of court costs.

Five workers would also receive $1000 in reparation each. 

The total payout will be split three ways if MPI, which is set to face a hearing on November 24, is convicted.    

Both AsureQuality and OneStaff were ordered to pay $1,666,66 in relation to reparation.

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