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Hand Injury Highlights the Importance of Training Staff to Ensure Safety

WorkSafe New Zealand has emphasized the significance of training staff to maintain a safe working environment following a recent incident that resulted in a serious hand injury. The incident involved a worker from the Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) wildlife team who was monitoring geese near the airport’s runways.

The Incident and Investigation

On November 15, 2021, the worker fired a cartridge from a pyrotechnic launcher towards the geese from the open driver’s side window of their stationary work vehicle. Unfortunately, this action caused the worker to sustain severe harm, including laceration to their right-hand palm and the loss of two fingertips on their right hand.

WorkSafe conducted an investigation into the incident and discovered that the victim had not received adequate training on the safe use of the launcher, as well as the storage and handling of the cartridges. The investigation also revealed that the standard operating procedures related to pyrotechnics were not up to par.

WorkSafe’s National Manager Investigations, Catalijne Pille, expressed concern about the way training was carried out, stating, “Training can be ‘watered down’ if it is simply passed on by person to person and not directly linked back to what the best practice states and the law requires.”

The Importance of Proper Training

This incident serves as a reminder that businesses and organizations must prioritize the use of equipment and ensure compliance with training regimes. Merely passing down knowledge without proper check-ins can lead to gaps in information and a misalignment of training with best practices.

Following the incident, the PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) engaged an external business to conduct training and reported increased satisfaction with the new process.

Enforceable Undertaking

AIAL has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with WorkSafe, which requires them to elevate the health and safety standards in their workplace, as well as in the wider industry and local community. The Enforceable Undertaking includes the following:

    • Financial amends to the victim
    • Implementation of a new suite of controls to minimize risk to workers
    • Development and implementation of a wildlife working group with key external stakeholders
    • Development and implementation of a national wildlife hazards conference
    • Funding to support organizations delivering mental health services in the South Auckland area

Through the Enforceable Undertaking, a Wildlife Working Group will be established to focus on minimizing wildlife risks. This initiative will be supported by the creation of a National Annual Wildlife Hazards conference and a sponsorship program aimed at improving safety and well-being.

Auckland International Airport Limited has embraced the opportunity to drive health and safety changes within the industry, acknowledging their responsibility for the incident and expressing deep remorse for the impact it had on the injured worker and their family.

Chloe Surridge, Chief Operations Officer at Auckland Airport, stated, “While birds pose a threat to aircraft safety, it is crucial that tactics used to scare them do not risk causing harm to individuals. Unfortunately, that was not the case in this incident. We have worked closely with WorkSafe and made significant improvements to ensure the future health, safety, and well-being of our wildlife rangers.”

Tips for Implementing Safety Measures in the Workplace

Ensuring the safety of employees in the workplace is of utmost importance. Here are some practical tips for implementing safety measures:

    1. Provide comprehensive training on the safe use of equipment and procedures.
    1. Regularly review and update standard operating procedures to align with best practices.
    1. Establish check-ins and feedback mechanisms to ensure training is effective and aligned with regulations.
    1. Engage external experts or consultants to conduct specialized training when necessary.
    1. Create working groups and conferences to address specific safety concerns and share knowledge.
    1. Allocate resources to support mental health services for employees.

By following these tips and prioritizing proper training and safety protocols, businesses and organizations can minimize the risk of incidents and ensure the well-being of their employees.

For more information on this incident, you can read the full article here.

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