A Hawkes Bay meat company has lost its bid to appeal a ruling over workplace safety after one of its staff injured his hand, which had to be partially amputated. 

The Progressive Meats' staff member injured his right hand about three years ago while using a brisket cutter two weeks after he started working for the company.

The staffer claimed to have been trained by a co-worker who’d started the same day as him. 

He said he was shown to use the cutter with two hands but also how to use it with one hand – despite there being safety measures on the tool to prevent its use in this way.

The charge

WorkSafe New Zealand charged Progressive Meats with failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers, exposing them to a risk of death or serious injury arising from machinery use.

Last year, in the Hastings district court, Judge Geoff Rea ruled Progressive Meats had failed to ensure the training was adequate, fined the company $280,000 and ordered reparations of $48,000.

But he dismissed the allegation Progressive Meats should have been aware of the safety defect of the brisket cutter – enabling its one-handed use.

The appeal

In September last year, Progressive Meats went to the high court at Napier trying to appeal Judge Rea’s decision.

Through its lawyer, Fletcher Pilditch, KC, it argued it was a miscarriage of justice because the evidence supplied by Worksafe was not up to a criminal standard and it contradicted other findings about the meat processor’s safety standards.

Progressive Meats had “robust safety systems” and wasn’t aware the brisket cutter could be used with one hand.

However, Justice Christine Grice’s judgment dated Dec 19 said Judge Rea made no error in his findings.

That failure exposed the victim to a risk of serious injury.

“The judge was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt on the fact that the training and supervision were inadequate. There was sufficient evidence for him to reach that conclusion.”

Clear and credible

WorkSafe said the staffer gave clear and credible evidence about how he was trained. 

Furthermore, it said his evidence was consistent with and went unchallenged by a senior staff member working in the department.

WorkSafe said the poor training happened on Progressive Meats’ watch.

The health and safety regulator said the faults in the victim's training, coupled with a lack of proper monitoring and supervision were the meat processing company’s responsibility.

As previously reported by BusinessDesk, the meat company, founded by Craig Hickson, is involved in a legal battle over a statutory demand it served on North Otago processor, BX Foods.