21 Apr 2016

Affco fined over worker who was impaled

5:19 am on 21 April 2016

A meatworker whose face was impaled on a hook has been awarded $25,000 in damages.

Meat company Affco was ordered in the Tauranga District Court to also pay a fine of $30,000.

WorkSafe said the company should have made sure a mutton chain was not operating when a night crew was cleaning up at the Rangiuru works in August 2014.

Jason Matahiki, already caught up by the hook, then had his head trapped for a moment in a disused steel barcode scanner, so that the hook was driven into his face.

The man has life-changing injuries, with ongoing headaches and pain moving his jaw.

WorkSafe chief investigator Keith Stewart said the company had failed to keep him safe.

"So this was very much about an important message that organisations need to be continually vigilant in their management of risk.

"Unfortunately, sadly, in this particular case, a man has been left with life-changing injuries that leave him in constant pain.

Mr Stewart said he hoped Affco had learned from the investigation.

The Meat Workers Union, however, has described the fine handed down to the company as "chump change".

The union's director of organising, Darien Fenton, told Checkpoint with John Campbell it was not enough of a deterrent.

"To be honest with you, I was disappointed with the fine. I think WorkSafe did a very good job in prosecuting this, and we want to see more of that.

"And maybe under the new health and safety laws we will see the fines go a bit higher, because this is chump change for a company like Affco."

Ms Fenton said Mr Matahiki and his family had suffered terribly from the accident.

In a statement, Affco said it accepted the judge's decision and would continue to push for a safe working environment for all of its staff.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs