Workplace injuries suffered by Māori, Pasifika and migrants criticised by WorkSafe

By Contributor

Henderson-based gluten-free bakery company Bakeworks, was sentenced on Wednesday. Photo / Google

By Sapeer Mayron and Melanie Earley, Stuff

The workplace watchdog has criticised New Zealand's high workplace injury rates for Māori, Pasifika and other migrants compared to Pākehā.

It comes after a West Auckland bakery was sentenced on Wednesday for failing to protect two staff. A baker had her hand “turned to mincemeat” and another lost part of her finger in two separate incidents at an Auckland factory.

WorkSafe said it was “fundamentally wrong” that workplace injury rates are higher for Māori, Pacific peoples and migrant workers.

“New Zealand needs to do better.”

According to WorkSafe research of ACC data, there are 103 work-related injury claims for every 1000 Māori full time workers, and 100 Pasifika claims for every 1000 workers.

That’s compared to 83 claims for every 1000 Pākehā workers.

Bakeworks Limited, based in Henderson, was sentenced by Judge Grant Fraser in Waitākere District Court on Wednesday – ordered to pay $36,000 over three years, with a further $10,000 for legal and expert costs.

The company was charged by WorkSafe with two counts of exposing an individual to the risk of harm or illness after two workers were injured within months of each other in 2021.

In a statement released on Thursday, WorkSafe said both victims were inadequately trained and both incidents were avoidable.

“To harm a second worker is nothing short of reprehensible when Bakeworks was already on notice,” Danielle Henry, a WorkSafe manager said.

“These victims were vulnerable workers who deserved far better from their employer.

“It is fundamentally wrong that harm rates are worse for Māori, Pacific peoples and migrant workers, and New Zealand needs to do better.”

In January 2021, a 28-year-old woman working at the company was asked to put seeds into a grinder, which the summary of facts said had no working safety guard.

She hadn’t used it before or been trained to. As she pushed the last bucket of seeds into the machine funnel, her left hand was sucked in.

All four fingers were severed to the knuckle and the top of her palm was gone.

She was able to turn the machine off and retrieve what was left of her hand, then spent three months in hospital and underwent seven surgeries. However, her fingers could not be reattached.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, the woman said she “grieves” for her hand.

In June 2021, a 40-year-old woman was making keto bread on a dough cutter machine.

The summary of facts said the woman believed she had paused the machine, but couldn’t see whether she had.

She reached underneath and the guillotine sliced off the top of her middle finger.

She was briefly hospitalised but her finger couldn’t be reattached.

The woman said her “world collapsed” that day.

Neither victim attended the sentencing, but Bakeworks Ltd directors did.

Judge Grant noted the incidents had shaken the company’s directors, but they had been paying both women following the incident which was “immensely incredible”.

Sentence discounts were given to the company for remorse, reparations already paid and entering a guilty plea.