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Employers and Their Machinery - Health & Safety

Published 01 Nov 2014


Employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees and any other people who can be harmed by the actions or inactions of their employees. Employers must, as far as practicable:

  • keep workers safe from hazards at work by identifying and managing hazards
  • make sure work done is safely
  • provide protective clothing and equipment
  • train and supervise workers so they can work safely
  • provide an accident reporting system and follow up on any accidents, injuries or near misses
  • develop procedures for dealing with emergencies.

If an employer can only minimise a hazard, they must monitor the environment and the health of employees.
Meat works company Riverlands Eltham Limited has been fined $57,949 and ordered to pay reparations of $15,000 after a worker’s left hand was caught and trapped in a machine. The employee’s hand was crushed and lacerated, leading to surgery and a five-day stay in hospital. The employee suffers ongoing pain and acute carpal tunnel syndrome.
Riverlands Eltham Limited was sentenced recently in the New Plymouth District Court under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of an employee.
The employee was originally employed to scan ear tags. But on 3 December 2013, the 17-year-old employee was on his third shift and operating a hoof nail removal machine unsupervised. He had not been adequately trained on this machine even though other staff had had extensive training.
While he was cleaning the machine he accidentally activated a foot pedal and his hand was drawn into the machine. The emergency stop was not easily accessible and he had to reach around with his right arm to push it. He then had to get his hand out himself as he couldn’t get help.
After the incident the employee was driven to an after-hours medical centre instead of an ambulance being called. He then sat at the medical centre for 40 minutes without pain relief.
WorkSafe New Zealand’s Chief Inspector Investigations, Keith Stewart, says this is Riverlands’ third prosecution for a serious harm incident relating to injuries caused by machinery. “This machine came with a hazard report that specified how placing hands in the rollers was a risk. The rollers remove nails from beef hocks by gripping and ripping nails from the hoof,” he said. “Riverlands’ own internal hazard and risk assessments noted that the rotors of the machine were an issue and could cause ‘laceration/bruising/crushes’.
“Riverlands’ should have eliminated the hazards by guarding the machine and adequately training and supervising all staff. The employee had neither so he now has to live with a life-long injury due to Riverlands’ failings.”


The employer or person in control of the workplace must not let anyone use a machine unless they have had training on:

  • the actual and potential hazards of the machine
  • all the precautions to be taken.

Unless the machine operator can operate the machine safely, then the employer or person in control should have the operator closely supervised by someone with the skills. Employees must be supervised and trained by a competent person (section 13 HSE Act).When training people to use machinery, a trainer must explain:

  • how to check and adjust the machine before starting it
  • how to stop and start the machine
  • how the machine works
  • what the machine does
  • location and operation of other controls
  • actual and potential hazards and appropriate ways to control them
  • purpose of guards and other safety devices
  • correct use and adjustment of guards
  • correct work methods to be used
  • how to recognise faults that could cause harm
  • limitations and capabilities of the machine
  • emergency procedures.

Take manufacturer's instructions into consideration when developing training programmes for operators.


Employers must ensure that no person under the age of 15 years works at or with machinery or assists with work at or with machinery.
Where goods are being prepared or manufactured for trade or sale and where construction work or forestry work is carried out,then no person under the age of 15 years should be present unless they are in a public access area, are under the direct supervision of an adult, on a guided tour of the area or in an area only used for the sale of goods or services. 

Source: WorkSafe NZ