Why is machine guarding still a problem in NZ? | IMPAC health and safety

14 June, 2018  |  News

Machine guarding isn’t a new concept for New Zealand businesses. We’ve been required to do so for almost 70 years. So why are we still getting it wrong, and why are fatalities, amputations, and injuries from machinery still a common occurrence?

The question has been raised again, this time by WorkSafe, in response to two Invercargill District Court sentencings relating to inadequate machine guarding incidents.


gears cogs machine machinery 159298Does your business have correct procedures around machines? Photo by pixabay.com from Pexels.


The incidents were serious

As WorkSafe reports, in May 2016 a worker for Marshall Industries was using a press style machine to create roofing tray clips when the material got stuck. After attempting to free a jammed clip with a piece of wire, the worker reached up through the inadequately-guarded outlet chute with his hand. The worker accidentally contacted the controls and the press was activated, amputating four digit tips from his right hand.

And in October 2016, a worker at Niagara Sawmill had his hand drawn into the gap between a roller and a metal plate on a wood processing machine. Two fingers were left damaged and required surgical amputation.

In both cases, the following WorkSafe investigations showed the employers had exposed their workers to risk of serious injury. In other words: both incidents could’ve been completely avoidable if the right controls were in place and actions were taken.

They’re not unique cases

Another WorkSafe media release, from August last year, details a Palmerston North company who identified issues with the guarding of a machine, but didn’t do anything about it, and a worker’s hand was dragged into the machine six weeks later. The victim was left with only his thumb and half a forefinger as a result.

Every few months, incidents like these make headlines. But nothing seems to be changing. Businesses need to prioritise the health and safety of their employees and provide safe machinery.

As Simon Humphries, WorkSafe Deputy General Manager, Investigations and Specialist Services, stated, "Ineffective or absent guarding is still taking and changing lives. You are required under the law to ensure your machinery is safe to use and to eliminate or minimise any risks wherever reasonably practicable.”

If you aren't sure if your guarding is up to scratch, talk to an expert today.