Do you really know what your workers are doing?

The importance of risk assessments and implementing appropriate controls – including training and monitoring workers to ensure they’re working safely, was a dominant message in the sentencing of Avon Industries Limited on health and safety charges.

The Whangarei District Court released their sentencing decision on Wednesday, after Avon Industries appeared in court for sentencing in February.

Avon Industries is a production engineering firm who carry out work that includes hot dip galvanising at temperatures over 450C.

In October 2016 a team of workers were re-galvanising chain when the bespoke machine they were using jammed. A worker climbed onto the frame of the machine, which was situated above a bath of molten zinc, to shake the chain free.

The worker’s left foot fell through a gap in the frame and went into the bath, resulting in molten zinc pouring into the worker’s boot. He sustained deep burns to his left foot and ankle and spent 21 days in hospital as a result of the incident.

Our investigation found that Avon Industries had not conducted a risk assessment on either the process or the machine. They did not have in place a safe system of work, or a formal training programme for dealing with machine malfunctions – even though chain jams were a known issue.

“A positive safety culture is imperative in high risk industries. It is not enough for a company to only identify a hazard – they need to manage that hazard appropriately”, says WorkSafe Deputy General Manager Investigations and Specialist Services Simon Humphries.

“This means preparing your staff for the work they are doing and monitoring their competence going forward. An ad-hoc and informal approach to safety puts workers at risk. It is not enough to tell your staff that hot metal is dangerous and learning from the person before them is not enough to prevent a worker from harm.”

Notes:

  • A fine of $371,250 was imposed.
  • Reparations of $30,000 were ordered.
  • Costs of $1,584.50 were ordered.
  • Avon Industries Limited was charged under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
    • Being a PCBU, failed to ensure so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who wokred for the PCBU, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking and that failure exposed the workers to a risk of serious injury.
  • The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.
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