Modified machine created risk that killed worker - 15.11.22

A Manawatū factory worker’s death underscores the importance of carrying out a dedicated risk assessment before modifying machinery in a workplace.

47-year-old Dwayne Summers died after being trapped and crushed, while using a meal bagging machine at Kakariki Proteins Limited in April 2021. The Feilding business was sentenced today in the Palmerston North District Court for health and safety failings.

A WorkSafe investigation found that the machine involved was a replica of another installed at the site. The replica had been modified to fit a new location, creating significant crushing hazards that were overlooked by the business. The replica machine was also missing a physical barrier between the worker and exposed moving parts. The company’s health and safety consultant was also not an expert in machine guarding.

The investigation found that Kakariki Proteins did not conduct an adequate risk assessment on the replica, failed to train its staff to use the machine properly, and did not adequately supervise them. There was also no easily accessible lockable isolating switch to stop the machine quickly in an emergency.

“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 or replicate it, ask yourself how the device is going to be used and if a hazard has been introduced. If you are bringing in a consultant, make sure they are competent in the job you’re asking them to do,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Paul West.

“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.”