Timber company fined after worker loses fingers and thumb

September 21, 2015

New Zealand Timber Limited has been fined $51,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $38,000 after an employee had the tip of a thumb and the fingers on his right hand amputated. The employee has had a number of surgeries on his hand to re-attach his index finger and forefinger. He lost his ring finger, little finger and the end of his thumb. Medical treatment is ongoing.

New Zealand Timber Limited was sentenced today in the Hamilton District Court under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure an employee was safe.

On 18 December 2013, the employee - who had only been on the job three days - was operating the rise and fall saw when sawdust flicked off the blade into his eye. While wiping his eye, the victim inadvertently put his right hand on the saw bed over the blade shot. As he leant forward he accidentally hit the knee knocker activation switch. The saw blade rose through the blade slot, and cut through his fingers and thumbs.

WorkSafes investigation identified a number of health and safety breaches. As a start, New Zealand Timber Limited should have ensured that employees wore the correct safety gear, says Keith Stewart, WorkSafes Chief Inspector. At the time of the incident the employee was wearing sunglasses.

They also should have ensured that the saw had an effective tunnel guard so that no one could come into contact with the blade. The knee knock activation switch should also have been removed and either a shrouded foot-pedal or two handed operation installed on the saw, says Keith Stewart. The Department of Labour had as early as 2005 identified that the knee knock activation be replaced and industry was advised by guidance to do as such.

If you guard your machines, you guard your people. Its that simple.