Amputations at meat works probed
3rd May 10, 1:48pm
A Southland meat plant is under investigation amid union claims 12 staff have lost 13 fingers while using bandsaws in the past 18 months reports The Southland Times. Otago-Southland Meat Workers Union secretary Gary Davis said one of those workers returned to work after losing a finger, was put back on the saws and lost another finger.The operators of the South Pacific Meats Awarua Plant denied there had been so many amputations. However, Labour Department southern regional manager Sheila McBreen-Kerr said the organisation had investigated about 20 incidents involving serious harm during the past two years at the Talleys-owned South Pacific Meats plant, at Awarua between Invercargill and Bluff. "Many of these involved bandsaws, ie, the amputation of fingers, or parts of fingers, and serious lacerations to fingers and hands," Ms McBreen said. The high number of incidents showed a long-running disregard for health and safety issues in the use of bandsaws, she said. "The department is very concerned with the health and safety performance at South Pacific Meats." The department had issued the plant with prohibition and improvement notices in relation to 16 hazards at the plant; there had been numerous investigations into accidents, and there were several ongoing investigations.It was inappropriate to comment on whether any of the investigations would result in prosecution, she said.South Pacific Meats plant manager Malcolm Hampton said the company did not agree it had ever had a disregard for health and safety. During the past two years it had spent about $250,000 on improvements in areas relating to saws, and this did not include increased spending on training and staff, Mr Hampton said."However, while the company can and has made a variety of physical changes, bandsaws are intrinsically dangerous." The saws were commonly used at meatworks plants and unfortunately resulted in injuries from time to time, including at other Southland plants, he said.