By Craig Carlyle, director at Maintenance Transformations

The interesting thing about safety is there is generally nothing new. We face the same dangers, the same requirements, and the same statistics as we have since the beginning of last century. Pretty much the only thing that has changed is the statutes, the levels of fines, and in some areas, improved technology solutions.

So why are we still killing and injuring our workers?
WorkSafe ask the same question, and this was expressed in the recent sentencing of Donovan Group after a Whangarei worker had a finger partially amputated in a steel press.

According to WorkSafe, “This is yet another instance where the courts have clearly said it’s not acceptable to expose workers to risk from unguarded machinery. There have been dozens of prosecutions from similar events. The solutions are available and effective, so there are no excuses. Clear guidance, standards, and options for machine guarding have existed for many years, and the wider manufacturing industry needs to do better.”

You cannot blame WorkSafe for their frustration. Far too often they are called to sites where cowboy attitudes, unfocused management and preventable incidents reign. Take the case of Kakariki Proteins in Manawatu where Dwayne Summers was killed working on a meal bagging machine that had been modified and moved without any assessment of the machine safety risks. In what parallel universe is it ok to bury your head in the sand?

According to WorkSafe’s Paul West commenting on the Kakariki prosecution, “Any business installing a new piece of equipment must identify the risks. It sounds simple but is so often missed. You might have a machine that works perfectly well, but if you move it or replicate it, ask yourself how the device is going to be used and if a hazard has been introduced. Our investigation findings transcend this particular site and industry. As a country, we owe it to victims like Dwayne Summers to pay closer attention to modified machinery.”

The advice from WorkSafe is crystal clear; you need to change your thinking about machine safety. One clear and simple method is to get another set of eyes to look at how you are managing your machine safety. Too often we only know what we know and the first time we find our shortcomings is when one of our workers becomes the next statistic. It’s a cheap investment when you are playing roulette with your company’s future.

Craig Carlyle is director at Maintenance Transformations. His expertise lies in the practical application of maintenance and health and safety management systems in the workplace. He is also a life member of the Maintenance Engineering Society of NZ.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Xpress Engineer NZ, NZ Engineering News or the parent company, Hayley Media.