A small cut on an employee's arm, caused by an unsafe machine, has cost a Hamilton business just over $100,000.
Frankton-based Proform Plastics Limited, which employs more than 110 people, was yesterday fined $42,000 in the Hamilton District Court after previously pleading guilty to a charge of breaching the Health and Safety in Employment Act.
This was after they spent more than $60,000 upgrading the safety features of the machinery involved.
The fine was almost $5000 more than Icepak Coolstores were ordered to pay after the fire and explosion which killed Derek Lovell and injured seven of his colleagues in 2009.
On October 7, an employee was using a computer numerical controlled router to make a vehicle tail gate and thought the machine had stopped.
But it was only jammed and when he reached in to pull away some scrap material, it restarted and the blade nicked his lower arm, inflicting a cut that required three stitches.
The wound was seen as so insignificant that the employee went to a nearby doctor to get patched up - rather than the hospital - and wanted to continue working that afternoon.
But the financial implications for the company have been anything but insignificant - now totaling more than $100,000.
It cost more than $60,000 to upgrade the safety features of the three routers, which involved installing a guard to prevent people reaching into the path of the blade and an "interlock device" so that power is automatically shut down when the guard is opened.
The upgrade work also involved 1000 man hours.
Judge Merelina Burnett said the victim in the matter was lucky to escape with such a minor injury and it could quite easily have been a finger amputation or worse.
The maximum penalty for the offence is $250,000 and the eventual fine for the company could have been worse, after the Labour Department argued for a starting point of $80,000 in court yesterday.
Proform chief operating officer Nick Smith was not in the country yesterday, but general manager of operations and logistics, Sunil Patil, who was in court for the sentencing, admitted it was "a hefty fine".
Proform's lawyer said the machines in question arrived in an unsophisticated state and they had modified them with some safety features. They had "bent over backwards" to assist the injured employee, he added.
Employers and Manufacturers Association Waikato chairman Jack Ninnes said while Proform's penalty did seem like a lot of money when taking into account the magnitude of the injury, he had little sympathy for companies that flaunted the rules.
"The message to companies is loud and clear - short cutting on health and safety is not an option." He backed the judge's decision and the "robust process" used to calculate the fine.
The victim was not seeking any compensation and was back at work shortly after the incident.
Other workplace incidents
June 2012: West Auckland packaging company
Sealed Air is fined $32,700 and ordered to pay reparation of
$40,000 to the victim after he was crushed by a crate which fell
off a truck.
March 2011: Rotorua-based mobile crane company Taslo Steel Security Ltd is fined $22,000 when a crane toppled sideways across a footpath and on to a Hamilton street. No one was injured.
February 2010: Former Olympic kayaking champion Ian Ferguson's Rock-n-Kayak company is fined $50,000 after 13-year-old student Amelia Peter was seriously injured when she fell nearly nine metres from a climbing wall at an activity centre on Wellington's waterfront.
December 2009: Icepak Coolstores and Mobile Refrigeration Specialists (MRS) were fined $37,200 and $56,200 respectively after the Tamahere fire which killed firefighter Derek Lovell and seriously injured seven of his colleagues.