24 Apr 2013

Fishing company fined over frost-bitten workers

9:36 pm on 24 April 2013

A court has fined a fish processing company $16,000 after two of its employees suffered frostbite while unloading fish from a vessel.

Maritime New Zealand says Pelco has been sentenced in the Tauranga District Court over the incident in July last year.

The authority says the employees were required to move fish from holds filled with water that was minus 17 degrees Celsius.

It says while both men had been given gloves, they had torn on fish spikes, exposing their hands to the freezing water.

One man was hospitalised for two-and-a-half weeks and still has not regained the use of the fingers on his right hand.

Pelco has been ordered in the Tauranga District Court to pay $4000 to that worker in addition to $10,000 the company had given him before the court case. The second worker is to receive $2000.

Maritime New Zealand spokesperson Michael Flyger says the sentence sends a message to other companies.

"They need to take health and safety very seriously. If they can't eliminate the risks that are inherent with these kind of jobs, they need to isolate them.

"If they can't isolate them, then they need to take steps to minimise the risk to their employees."

The Council of Trade Unions says the size of the fine amounts to a slap on the wrist.

President Helen Kelly says $16,000 is not enough to get companies to adhere to safety regulations and they are taking risks because, from their point of view, it's worth it.

Ms Kelly says the fishing industry has a poor safety record.

Pelco has declined to comment on the case.