22 Sep 2018

Seafood company fined after employee loses eye

8:26 am on 22 September 2018

A North Island seafood company has been fined more than $200,000 in the Tauranga District Court, for a chemical splash that left an employee without an eye.

The woman was ordered to serve 60 hours of community work and pay reparation costs of $500 directly to the owner to cover insurance excess costs.

file photo Photo: SunLive

North Island Mussels Limited has also been ordered to pay repatriation of $60,000 for the incident which happened in January last year.

In a statement, WorkSafe said the employee had been decanting a cleaning product when a piece of tubing flicked him in the eye.

"The corrosive product and the impact of the tubing left him with damage so significant that his eye had to be removed. The resulting scarring also meant the victim could not be fitted with a prosthetic eye."

The employee should not have been decanting the product in the first place, and said a safer system would have avoided the situation all together, WorkSafe said.

"It would have been reasonably practicable for the cleaning product to have been hardwired and plumbed for use, meaning workers would not have to handle the product themselves," WorkSafe said.

A subsequent investigation had uncovered several health and safety failings by North Island Mussels Limited, it said.

"The company had also failed to identify risks and put in place suitable controls, failed to ensure the availability of suitable personal protective equipment and failed to have an effective system in place to monitor the use of that equipment."

In a statement, North Island Mussels Limited apologised for the incident and for any emotional damage caused.

"For all of us, this incident has really brought home the importance of keeping ourselves and our people safe," the company said.

"We have been very grateful to the team member affected, for his courage in talking about what happened with other staff, to help them learn. We are very sorry as we know the loss of his eye will continue to have a profound effect on his life and his family."

North Island Mussels Limited said it had made several changes in the workplace to ensure nothing like this ever happened again.

"These changes have included some physical ones to our plumbing systems and some training changes to make sure all staff know what has happened and to reinforce key safety messages," they said.