Ancient kauri manufacturer fined after employee severes fingers

Friday 12 August 2011, 5:13PM
By Department of Labour


The world’s largest manufacturer of ancient Kauri wood products has been fined $30,000 in the Kaitaia District Court after a mill supervisor had his fingers severed by a rotating saw blade.

Ancient Kauri Wood Products Limited at Awanui was also ordered to pay $20,000 in reparations after the Court heard the employee underwent about 20 hours of emergency surgery to have his fingers reattached to his left hand. He still requires treatment to restore the feeling to his hand.

The accident happened on 25 August last year when the employee was using a radial saw - the blade dug in to a piece of timber he was holding and shot towards him amputating his fingers through the knuckles.

“This employee suffered gruesome injuries and had to be flown from Kaitaia to Auckland for extensive surgery because his employer didn’t take all practicable steps to ensure his safety,” says Rod Gibbon, the Department of Labour’s Service Manager in Whangarei.

“He was working with a revolving blade that was exposed and could be reached from a number of angles because the guards on the machine were either inadequate or non-existent,” says Mr Gibbon.

“A limit stop device would have prevented the saw from moving beyond the edge of the bench near the operator. The blade should have also been adjusted correctly for ripping timber, but the employee was not aware of this safety requirement.

“Sadly this is just one of many machine guarding-related accidents the Department investigates every year. Our inspectors are still seeing too many cases of unsafe machinery, poor guards and a lack of safety procedures around machine use.

“For this reason the Department has a three-year national compliance project under way to raise awareness of proper machine guarding and to remind employers of their responsibilities to provide a safe workplace.

“In the past year we’ve visited more than 1,000 employers across the country as part of this project. Where we find cases of unsafe machinery being used we will take action to reduce the unacceptably high number of people being harmed at work,” Mr Gibbon says.

  • Ancient Kauri Wood Products Limited was convicted and sentenced on one charges under Section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. This states: Every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work; and in particular shall take all practicable steps to—
  • (a) provide and maintain for employees a safe working environment; and
  • (b) provide and maintain for employees while they are at work facilities for their safety and health; and
  • (c) ensure that plant used by any employee at work is so arranged, designed, made, and maintained that it is safe for the employee to use; and
  • (d) ensure that while at work employees are not exposed to hazards arising out of the arrangement, disposal, manipulation, organisation, processing, storage, transport, working, or use of things—

              (i) in their place of work; or

             (ii) near their place of work and under the employer's control; and

  • (e) develop procedures for dealing with emergencies that may arise while employees are at work.