News Article

latest news in employment law


Published 01 Dec 2010

Media Release
An Auckland manufacturing company has today been fined after a 17 year old employee lost part of his finger because machine guards were not in place.
Metal Skills Limited, which designs and manufactures precision sheet metal components, was fined $22,500 and ordered to pay reparation of $6,000 following the accident on 19 January 2010.
The Manukau District Court heard that the teenager initially worked for Metal Skills Limited as part of a work experience programme through his high school and then as a casual employee when the school term ended.
The teenager had no previous experience working on the press brake machine, which moulds metal and after a quick demonstration on how to use it by another employee, he was left alone to complete the job.
His finger became caught in the press brake, amputating the tip of his right middle finger.
This accident to this young worker could have been prevented if the company had made sure its machine was adequately guarded says Department of Labour Manukau Service Manager, Craig White.
"Machine guarding is one of the most basic and easiest ways to prevent machinery accidents," Mr White says.
"In this case, it's extremely serious as the company expected a 17 year old with no previous experience to operate the machine.
"Machine guarding has been in legislation for more than a century, but unfortunately the Department is still finding inadequately guarded machines in the workplace," Mr White says.
"Because of the high number of serious harm and fatal injuries associated with the unsafe use of machinery, the Department has started a three-year project focusing on machine guarding standards.
"Health and safety inspectors will also be looking at whether effective procedures and systems are in place around machinery to ensure a safe environment.
"The project will also focus on designers, manufacturers and suppliers, where inspectors identify that unsafe machinery has been sold or supplied to New Zealand businesses."
Since the accident Metal Skills Limited has worked closely with the Department to improve the way it manages hazards, particularly around machine guarding in an attempt to prevent a similar accident in future.

NB Metal Skills Limited was convicted on one charge under Section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

Section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 states
Every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work; and in particular shall take all practicable steps to-
  • provide and maintain for employees a safe working environment; and
  • provide and maintain for employees while they are at work facilities for their safety and health; and
  • ensure that plant used by any employee at work is so arranged, designed, made, and maintained that it is safe for the employee to use; and
  • ensure that while at work employees are not exposed to hazards arising out of the arrangement, disposal, manipulation, organisation, processing, storage, transport, working, or use of things—
    • in their place of work; or
    • near their place of work and under the employer's control; and
  • develop procedures for dealing with emergencies that may arise while employees are at work.