New Zealand Law Society - Mussel firm ordered to pay up after worker loses an eye

Mussel firm ordered to pay up after worker loses an eye

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A mussel processing company has been fined more than $200,000 and ordered to pay $60,000 in reparations after a worker had his eye removed following an incident involving a corrosive cleaning product.

WorkSafe says North Island Mussels Ltd has been sentenced in the Tauranga District Court following the January 2017 incident.

The worker was decanting a cleaning product when a piece of tubing flicked him in the eye. The corrosive product and the impact of the tubing left him with damage so significant that his eye had to be removed. The resulting scarring also meant the victim could not be fitted with a prosthetic eye.

WorkSafe says the worker should not have needed to decant the cleaning product in the first place and that a safer system of work would have avoided the incident all together.

It says an investigation found that it would have been reasonably practicable for the cleaning product to have been hardwired and plumbed for use, meaning workers would not have to handle the product themselves.

The company had also failed to identify risks and put in place suitable controls, failed to ensure the availability of suitable personal protective equipment and failed to have an effective system in place to monitor the use of that equipment.

“Protective equipment should not be the go to safety solution for using hazardous substances. If there is a smarter and safer way of doing a job, and it is reasonably practicable for it to be implemented then that is the expectation of the Health and Safety at Work Act,” says WorkSafe’s Deputy General Manager for Operations and Specialist Services, Simon Humphries.

North Island Mussels was fined $219,375 and ordered to pay $60,000 reparations.

The company was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

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