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Kiwi Lumber fined $350k for death

Police guard the closed gate at Kiwi Lumber after a female worker died in 2018. PHOTO/FILE

Company makes major safety improvements

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
[email protected]

Having machinery guarding in place to prevent employees being able to access a timber grading and sorting machine at Kiwi Lumber in Waingawa would have likely prevented a workplace death in November 2018, WorkSafe says.

Anita McRae, 36, died after she was pulled into machinery which restarted while she was trying to clear a fault.

A WorkSafe investigation led to the company appearing in Masterton District Court last month on a charge of breaching health and safety at work.

In a written decision made public last week, Judge Barbara Morris fined the company $350,000 and ordered it to pay reparations of $263,762 to McRae’s family.

This included $145,762 in consequential loss.

Judge Morris told McRae’s family at the earlier appearance that there was “nothing this court can do that will in any way compensate that grief or loss”.

The WorkSafe investigation found that existing safety procedures, such as the lockout system whereby employees carried a ‘key’ to turn off equipment where they were working, were the lowest form of risk mitigation and the lack of guarding deviated from industry standards.

WorkSafe’s chief inspector Steve Kelly said the “tragic incident” highlighted the need to ensure machinery was guarded.

“The worker shouldn’t have been able to access the machine so easily.

“Our message to all businesses is simple – if your worker has to interact with machinery, then it must be guarded.

“The more human interaction needed around machinery, the more vital it is there is adequate guarding in place.”

He said the machine stretched at the sawmill site and its “sheer size” meant workers had to interact with it at different areas and it could only be restarted from one point.

“Had appropriate guarding been in place, this woman might still be alive today.”

Adam Gresham, managing director of Kiwi Lumber, said the company accepted the findings of the investigation, pleading guilty to the charge.

“This was a tragic accident that meant our colleague lost her life. Everyone who goes to work should come home safely at the end of each day.

“What happened was also deeply distressing for many of our team, especially those who were working on the day of the accident.”

He said the company had made major upgrades and investment in safety systems on the site in the past three years.

Much of the work was specific to upgrading guarding in all areas of the site, including interlocking gates and upgrading safety controls.

New risk management systems had also been introduced.

“The safety and well-being of our people is, and will always be, our number one priority,” he said.

 

 

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