$57,000 payments ordered over workplace accident

November 21, 2014 | By More

Court House-general2A contractor feels he has been “discarded” by the company that employed him after he injured a hand trying to stop machinery crushing a worker as it tipped over.

The feelings of stainless steel fabricator Michael Livingstone were put before the Christchurch District Court yesterday as the company was ordered to pay fines and reparations totalling $57,000.

Nelson firm Kernohan Engineering Ltd had admitted the charge of failing to take all practical steps to ensure that no contractor or subcontractor was harmed while doing work.

Judge John Strettell fined the company $37,000 for the Health and Safety in Employment breach, and ordered it to pay $20,000 as emotional harm reparations to the injured contractor, Mr Livingstone.

The accident happened last year at a plant in Christchurch where a forklift was used to lift part of a machine, weighing 1.8 tonnes, for the replacement of bearings.

A crane capable of stabilising the part was present but was not used.

During the work, the bearing tipped and fell against the upright of the forklift. Mr Livingstone was in the area and saw that the bearing was going to hit another worker and tried to stop that by placing a hand on the bearing.

His hand was trapped between the bearing and the forklift for about three minutes and received significant crush injuries which required surgery to fix with wires and skin grafts.

The surgeon said Mr Livingstone had made remarkable progress but he disgreed and was concerned about his inability to carry out a significant part of the motions required for his work. A report said he felt he had been “discarded” by the company.

Judge Strettell said whether that was a long term decision was a matter for the company. “After the initial promise of work they have found that prior to providing that work they require sign-off in a medical sense by the specialists,” he noted.

The company’s general manager, Kevin Roughton, said staff had been horrified that something like this could have happened. “We believed we had a very strong Health and Safety policy and ethos, but this made us really look into it.”

Judge Strettell noted that the company and the contractor were now at an impasse about the financial consequences of the accident. But he said the contractor’s losses were not an issue that the court could take into account when assessing penalty. “That is a matter covered by ACC.”

The payment ordered by the court covers emotional harm.

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