Prosecutions show a ‘cavalier approach’ to guarding, machine safety

A wave of prosecutions related to guarding and the safe use of machinery are an eyeopener to the complacency of business in keeping their workers safe from potential harm according to Craig Carlyle of HasTrak.

From the Wellington pastry worker degloving his hand in a pastry maker to the female sawmill worker killed when she was dragged into machinery, the reality is that our statistics have not improved despite the best intentions of MBIE and WorkSafe.

According to the WorkSafe chief inspector there are too many workers whose safety is compromised by having to operate inadequately guarded machinery.

“The need to guard machinery is a legal requirement and one of the easiest ways to ensure your workers’ safety. It’s not new and businesses must ensure these simple protective devices are installed, and operated, on their machinery.

“It might seem like health and safety 101, but if a machine doesn’t have adequate guarding, then it shouldn’t be used. It’s that simple.”

Safe use of machinery (guarding) requirements have been in place since 1901, however recent fines signal the intent to get serious. A $200,000-$300,000 fine is now the starting point for most prosecutions.

WorkSafe simplified the AS/NZS 4024 requirements with the publication of its own Best Practice Guide in 2014, but this alone is not enough. Competency and confidence training is required so that businesses stop burying their heads in the sand and incorporate machine safety into their normal operations. It is simply not good enough to ignore safety when making capital purchases, or to hand the guarding issues off to tradesmen without considering the management responsibilities, or to assign staff to machinery without considering their competency.

Training in the application of WorkSafe’s best practice guide on the Safe Use of Machinery is available and this is an ideal starting point to understanding how to keep workers safe and where everyone in the organisation fits into a complete solution.

So, what can you do if you use machinery in your business? There are several basic steps you can take to ensure your workers and your business are not at risk:

You could start out by arranging a machinery safety audit. This will confirm your level of compliance, or alternatively provide a roadmap for improvement. External audits often uncover obvious faults that existing personnel are blind to.

You could involve staff members in training in the safe use of machinery best practice guidelines. Try sending a cross section of employees, not just your engineers, to embed the awareness, competence and confidence across your organisation, and help the business understand the overarching responsibilities.

You could check your own systems; do we have safe systems of work? Do we do guarding checks? Do we train our staff on hazards or risks that could hurt them? Do we record that training and systemise the training to remind us in the future?

Whatever suits your business hiding your head in the sand is no longer a viable option.

For more contact HasTrak on (09) 292 2919, (027) 41 44 260 or at