In a recent decision in the District Court, a fruit and vegetable processor, Prepared Produce Ltd was sentenced in relation to three incidents. All three incidents occurred within the space of 18 months, and all involved the amputation of fingers of workers operating belt slicer machines.

Prepared Produce Ltd pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to take all practicable steps to keep workers safe. They also pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to notify WorkSafe of the incidents; WorkSafe only became aware when it received a complaint from the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.

The machine was inadequately guarded. It was specifically noted that if the first incident had been notified to WorkSafe, it is likely that the issue of inadequate guards would have been raised and dealt with, and the latter two incidents would probably not have occurred.

Prepared Produce was ordered to pay reparation of between $18,500 and $20,000 for each victim, amounting to $57,000. They were also fined a total of $196,406.25 for the six offences.

The case shows that fines appear to be getting higher, particularly for repeat offences. As prosecutions begin taking place for charges laid under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which has much higher maximum fines than under the current legislation, it is likely that fines will continue to increase.

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