News Article

latest news in employment law

Company fined $61k for lack of PPE

Published 21 May 2023

Auckland's North Shore District Court have ordered Mapua Avocados to $62,185.00 in reparations to their worker after he received a permanent eye injury while repairing fences in an orchard in Northland.

Recently the hearing on the incident dating back to April 2021 found the 20 year old casual worker had been out with a supervisor repairing wire fences in an orchard 41kms north of Kaitaia. In the course of the work a wire has snapped and struck the young worker in the eye causing a permanent injury.

The Court found the company's H&S standards woefully inadequate. Neither the worker nor the supervisor had eye protection while undertaking the task, no training given to the worker, and in the month previous an unreported near miss incident of exactly the same nature had occurred.

The initial position from the Judge was a fine of $240,000.00 and reparations to the worker of $62,185.00, however due to the company's ability to pay, the $240,000.00 was effectively wiped, but the reparation figure stood. Bearing in mind, failure to protect a worker from serious injury comes with a maximum fine of $1.5m.

The needlessness of the situation could not be lost on any reasonable person. A $5 pair of safety glasses could have preserved the eyesight of a young worker. That said, the company fell well short in compliance with the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 as pointed out during the hearing.

Apart from an obvious PPE requirement in tasks as fencing, training and supervision should be given to trainees. Monitoring and reporting systems need to be in place. Accidents, incidents, including near misses need to be reported, investigated and potentially resolved to avoid recurrences and establish continual improvements in safety. Workers need to be engaged as part of the safety process including giving them the instruction, facility and training to report the same. Furthermore, a company needs to be able to prove all this is taking place on a continual basis.

If any of this rings alarm bells for your operation consider making use of the Health & Safety module in the Employers Toolbox. Everything you need to demonstrate and record your safety undertakings is available there. Engage with your workers and get them trained with the reporting functions using the latest QR code system.

zoom Click to zoom

It would appear the Court has actually displayed extreme leniency in entirely annulling a $240,000.00 fine in this case. Rest assured the days of "she'll be right" in terms of safety are long gone.