23 Sep 2021

Sanford fined $500K over employee's death, CEO apologises

1:34 pm on 23 September 2021

The fishing company Sanford has been ordered to pay $500,000 after one of its employees was killed while working on one of its vessels.

Sanford seafood company.

Photo: Supplied / Sanford

Steffan Stewart became caught in machinery in the automated freezer system for processing fish in November 2018, while attempting to clear a blockage.

He died from his injuries.

Maritime NZ Investigations manager Pete Dwen said Sanford knew the system was high risk.

"The need for machine guards to protect workers is a well-known issue on ships."

"When Sanford bought [the ship] San Granit in 2016 it had an 'at sea safety report' done to identify risks on board and what could be done to fix them.

"Dangers in the automated freezer system were identified as high risk. However, it was not until Mr Stewart's death two years after the report that Sanford spent $450,000 making critical changes, including introducing an automatic shutdown system and revising its standard operating procedure for clearing blockages."

Sanford chief executive Peter Reidie said the company was deeply sorry for what had happened and accepted responsibility.

"Sanford accepts the decision by the Judge in the Timaru District Court today in relation to the death of Steffan Stewart. We know that no legal decision and no amount of money will ever make up for the shock and trauma of the loss suffered by Steffan's whānau.

"He was a much-loved son, brother, grandson and friend. Steffan is deeply missed by his crewmates on the San Granit, where he is remembered every day with his name on a plaque displayed on the vessel. We know Steffan really enjoyed being at sea and it is tragic that that is where he lost his life."

"Since Steffan's death Sanford has undertaken a comprehensive refit of the San Granit and has made extensive changes to the machine guarding on board.

"Today we are thinking of Steffan's mum and all his immediate and wider family."

In the Timaru District Court Judge Couch said Sanford's standard operating procedure for clearing blockages was of little value because compliance was not monitored.

The supervisor working at the time was also unfamiliar with the system and unaware of Sanford's fatigue management policy.

The incident happened at 3.45am.

Sanford pleaded guilty to one charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act of exposing workers to risk of death or serious injury. It was fined $375,000 and ordered to pay $121,860 reparations to family and $35,000 costs by the Timaru District Court.

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