Sealord fined after injury on board

Nelson-based fishing company Sealord have been fined $63,400 and ordered to pay reparations of $12,500 in the Nelson District Court today after a fisherman working on board one of their vessels fell through a hatch, rupturing his spleen.

In September, Sealord pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to ensure the safety of an employee, under Section Six of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

On 2 October 2011, factory hand James Billingham was helping prepare the vessel Ocean Dawn for departure from Nelson. While attempting to remove the bungs under the hatch cover, he overbalanced and fell approximately five metres into the ship’s hold.

He was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with fractured ribs and a sprained thumb. Later that day he was suffering severe abdominal pain and returned to hospital where he underwent an emergency splenectomy (removal of the spleen).

Judge Tony Zohrab told the court Sealord had failed to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees on board.

Maritime New Zealand director Keith Manch said the sentence sends a clear message to operators that health and safety is to be taken seriously.

"Had a proper hatch guarding been in place, it’s clear Mr Billingham wouldn’t have fallen in this case. Just identifying the hazard, and minimising it by informing employees - as Sealord had - isn’t enough. The legislation clearly states steps must first be taken to eliminate or isolate the hazard, before minimisation can be considered."

"Maritime New Zealand is committed to improving the safety of the fishing industry by whatever means necessary. Prosecution is generally used as a last resort, but in situations like this, it is the most appropriate course of action, and I welcome the sentence."

The maximum penalty for this offence under the Act is a fine of $250,000.

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