The TEG Risk team were dismayed to read the recent article by Worksafe New Zealand about the machine guarding failures that led to life-changing injuries to two employees at an Auckland specialty bakery. Machinery is inherently hazardous, and even businesses that may not be considered large industrial manufacturers can have risks that warrant a thorough risk assessment and management by a competent person(s).

In this particular case, two injuries occurred on similar machines at the same bakery and an interlock had come off one machine 18 months prior to the accident. There was an opportunity after the first incident to risk assess the machinery and make it safe. While safeguarding machinery requires a significant amount of work even a near miss should be taken as an opportunity to make things safe. The safety of employees should always be the top priority, and businesses need to ensure that they are taking all the necessary steps to protect their workers as these events demonstrate.

The fines that were imposed in this case were significant, totaling over $600,000. However, it is worth noting that the fines were greatly reduced due to the company’s ability to pay. Even if we ignore the moral, ethical, and legal reasons for managing machine safety risk, the financial ones alone are existential for a business. A significant incident or injury can have a devastating impact on a company’s reputation, brand, and bottom line. Therefore, it is crucial that businesses prioritise employee safety by providing sufficient resources (a Director’s responsibility) so that management can take the necessary precautions to prevent accidents from occurring.

It is important to note that machine safety is a complex engineering task that should be done by experts.  Many organisations may not have the inhouse resources to handle all areas of machine safety and while the costs associated with assessing and safeguarding machinery may seem like a lot, it is insignificant when compared to the risks.  Most organisations make provisions to be able to use competent professional services for legal, employment and financial matters – machine safety should be no different.

It is also important for business owners and directors/officers to understand that the costs of accidents can be an order of magnitude higher than the direct and visible ones. For example, an employee who suffers a life-changing injury may require ongoing medical treatment, rehabilitation, and care. Additionally, there may be indirect costs such as lost productivity, increased insurance premiums, and potential legal fees. These costs can quickly add up and have a long-lasting impact on a business.  Investment into machine safety should be a no-brainer.

In this particular case, the bakery was a specialty bakery, which suggests that it may have been smaller in scale than a large industrial manufacturer. However, it is critical to note that even small businesses with machinery can have significant risks that require a thorough risk assessment. TEG Risk and Sustainability Director Hamish Baker strongly recommends that all businesses with machinery take the necessary steps to ensure that their workers are safe.

In conclusion, the recent machine guarding failures at the Auckland bakery should serve as a wake-up call for businesses of all sizes. Machinery safety is not something that should be taken lightly, and it is important for businesses to prioritise the safety of their employees above all else. Even small businesses with machinery can have significant risks that require a thorough risk assessment by competent experts.

Business owners and directors/officers should take proactive steps to ensure sufficient resources are allocated and effective programmes are in place to mitigate risks associated with machinery; ensuring that all necessary precautions are taken, and that they comply with all applicable laws and regulations. By prioritising employee safety and taking a comprehensive approach to risk management, businesses can not only protect their workers but also safeguard their financial future and ensure long-term success.

About TEG Risk

TEG Risk is a world-class organisation specialising in machine safety and risk management.

Our team of machine safety engineering consultants provide completely independent risk assessment services for machinery and hazardous substances. They also provide best practice advice and engineering design solutions to ensure your workplace is safe and compliant with all relevant regulations.

For more information about our services, please contact us.