NZ food company sentenced following worker’s injury

A food company in New Zealand had been sentenced in the Queenstown District Court on Monday following an incident that left a worker’s arm trapped in an oven.

According to WorkSafe New Zealand, the worker was cooking tortillas in November 2016 in a commercial tortilla press and oven when the tortilla became stuck. As he has been taught to do, he removed guarding from the machine and reached in to remove the tortilla using a spatula. The spatula got stuck in the conveyor slats so he put on heat resistant gloves and reached in to remove the tortilla and spatula out. His glove became caught and his right hand and arm were drawn into the oven that was aflame. His co-workers freed his arm but were not aware of what to do in an emergency.

WorkSafe’s investigation found that the company had insufficient health and safety systems, failed to ensure a risk assessment of the machinery was carried out, failed to provide suitable guarding, and failed to ensure that workers were adequately trained and were aware of an appropriate emergency system.

“This was a piece of machinery loaded with risks,” said WorkSafe Deputy General Manager, Investigations and Specialists Services, Simon Humphries.

“The gas burners, the moving conveyer belt and the inadequate machine guarding all contributed to an incident that was entirely avoidable. Tortillas getting jammed was a known issue but there was no safe system in place for managing the problem.”

No fine was imposed but the court said had a fine been payable, it would have been $ 337,500.

Following prohibition and improvement notices, the company has since installed an interlocking guard.

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