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Spate Of Freezing Works Accidents

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Posted 16 March 2004 - 07:23 AM

Spate of freezing works accidents revealed
16 March 2004
By KELLY ANDREW

One worker is dead and three have been injured in a spate of accidents at a Tararua freezing works.


Occupational Safety and Health are investigating four accidents in the past three weeks at Oringi Freezing Works, near Dannevirke:


February 25: Cleaner Kirihoro Chase's neck scarf snares in a conveyor belt in a carton room at the plant. She later dies in hospital.


March 3: A cleaner's arm is caught in a conveyor belt, crushing her hand.


March 5: A freezing worker severs one of his fingers.


March 12: A worker suffers a head injury with mild concussion.

OSH Palmerston North manager Linda Murphy said it had serious concerns about safety at the works.

"We'll be working out there with them to see how we can get an improvement in safety performance at this plant. It's terribly upsetting for staff when their workmates are being harmed."

Ms Murphy said Richmond, which owns Oringi Freezing Works and several other meat processing plants around New Zealand, had been successfully prosecuted by OSH for safety breaches six times in the past decade, including three charges of failing to provide adequate training and supervision.

However, none of these cases related to the Oringi works.

Ms Murphy said an improvement notice had been issued to Oringi management by an OSH inspector after the second accident involving a conveyor belt. The notice had been complied with.

Meat Workers' Union Hawke's Bay representative Eric Mischefski said cost-cutting across the meat industry had led to health and safety being "put on the back burner".

Less supervision and training for workers had resulted in a growing number of workplace accidents.

Mr Mischefski said the Oringi plant was a "recidivist offender" in this area.

"It's brassing us off that this is happening when year after year we have been highlighting these issues."

Mr Mischefski acknowledged that Richmond had introduced a health and safety project targeting zero workplace accidents by 2007, but said it was meaningless without changes at all levels of the business.

"It's fine to have a target, but you have to be able to translate those philosophies down to the shop floor."

Richmond chief executive Richard Carver has said he is committed to improving health and safety in all its plants. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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