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Ashburton court case shows human cost of unsafe work practice

Media Release

23 March 2010

A court sentencing in Ashburton today over a man being crushed to death in machinery highlights the human cost of businesses ignoring basic safety procedures, the Department of Labour says. 
The Department’s Workplace Christchurch Service Manager Margaret Radford says the accident was easily preventable.

RX Plastics Ltd of Ashburton was fined a total of $85,000 after admitting two offences under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 - failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of an employee, and failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees in general.

No order was made for reparation, on the basis that RX Plastics had already made payments totalling nearly $218,000 to the victim’s family.

The charges related to an accident in March 2009 when an employee was leaning into a machine to remove a faulty pipe fitting. Safety mechanisms for the machine had been overridden and, when hydraulic equipment engaged, the man’s head and upper torso were crushed, trapping him in the machine and killing him.

Department of Labour investigations revealed other items of machinery at the plant where safety mechanisms had been overridden, or safety guards had either been removed or could easily be removed.

Ms Radford says the RX Plastics case showed a disregard for safety mechanisms.

“Safety guards aren’t there for decoration, yet in this case it seems there was a widespread lack of respect for the need to have them – and a man paid with his life for that. It’s a tragedy that it takes something like this for people to realise the importance of treating machinery with the respect it deserves.”

Ms Radford says that RX Plastics have since improved their workplace safety procedures to meet Department requirements.

To the journalist: please note that health and safety services formerly referred to as Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) should now be referred to as the Department of Labour.

Media contact: 0274 422 141 or e-mail