Company sentenced after worker hit by falling laundry bag
Thursday 24 October 2002
New Zealand Towel Supplies (NZTS) Limited were ordered to pay $9,000 today in the Napier District Court after a worker was seriously injured in an accident last year.
The accident occurred when a female worker was hit on the back of her head by a bag of wet laundry which weighed close to 30kg.
It appears that prior to the accident someone has released the brake or inadvertently left the brake off on the laundry bag line system. As a result of this, a moving bag fell off and struck a worker, said Murray Thomson, Service Manager, Hawkes Bay, Occupational Safety and Health Service (OSH).
Since the accident the victim is in constant pain, suffers migraines and is still on reduced hours. New Zealanders being harmed and killed at work is simply unacceptable.
Mr Thomson said the company should have ensured that the line system was installed correctly. Checks have revealed that all other NZTS sites have a stop welded into the end of lines. This means that if the brake is released on an open line, the bags cannot come off.
The company also allowed employees to work underneath bags which could have fallen off, not just as in this case, but for instance, if the stitching holding the bag on the hook ripped.
There had previously been occasions on which bags had fallen off the lines and accordingly there was a foreseeable risk to employees. While a hazard identification system was in place, the company had not identified this existing hazard, nor had it put in place control measures to ensure that the hazard did not create an unsafe workplace for the victim or any other employees.
The company also committed to other breaches under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
It is the responsibility of every employer to report serious harm incident to OSH as soon as possible following the occurrence of such incidents. In this case, the defendant failed to provide such notice. OSH, however, discovered the accident reviewing the first aid register during a routine compliance visit.
Also, in the event of a serious harm accident it is the responsibility of the employer to prevent the scene of the accident from being interfered with. In this case the defendant failed to prevent this from happening.
Everyone has the right to go to work and be safe. Companies must ensure that workplace hazards are identified and controlled correctly, and that their safety systems are constantly reviewed and updated.