25 Mar 2016

Recycling company fined after worker crushed to death

6:25 am on 25 March 2016

A recycling company has been forced to pay more than $150,000 in compensation, fines and legal costs after a worker was crushed to death.

Wellington Hospital.

Wellington Hospital. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Junior Hunt became trapped in a recycling truck's hydraulic lifting hoist in March last year, and died from his injuries in Wellington Hospital a day later.

The 20-year-old was working for EnviroWaste Services as a driver.

The company was sentenced in the Wellington District Court yesterday after admitting charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

It was ordered to pay $85,000 in reparations to Mr Hunt's family, a $66,000 fine and court costs.

WorkSafe's chief inspector Keith Stewart said the company failed Mr Hunt.

"The victim was a young worker, tragically taken in the prime of his life. Sadly, EnviroWaste failures to keep Junior Hunt safe by providing adequate training and properly managing the hazards on the recycling truck have resulted in devastating and irreversible consequences for the victim and his family."

He said he was pleased the family had some type of closure.

"Finally the family have been able to see the end of process, but of course at the end of the day that's cold comfort for not having their family member around," he said.

Mr Stewart said EnviroWaste staff at the Wellington branch also previously noticed issues with the bin lifters stalling in mid-air.

"There were quite a number of opportunities for the company to identify the risks from the work and put in place some safe systems to reduce the risk to staff and contractor employees. It's a very important lesson to learn from this [death] is that you need to have systems in place to pick up information from your workers about what is happening at the worksite."

EnviroWaste said it had made major changes since the tragedy.

In a written statement, chief executive Gary Saunders said staff remained "deeply saddened" and their thoughts were with Mr Hunt's family "who have again been reminded of this tragic incident".

EnviroWaste was "fully focused" on improving the safety of its equipment and activities, he said.

"Rigorous investigations have been undertaken, operational improvements introduced and we have made targeted modifications to the operational design of the trucks.

"The lessons from this loss are an enduring reminder about the critical importance of health and safety on the job."

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