Machine operator loses fingers at Taranaki Sawmill

Press Release

A worker who was seven weeks into his first job at Taranaki Sawmills has been left unable to return to work after he lost three fingers and part of his palm as the result of a traumatic amputation in unguarded machinery.

The company was sentenced at the New Plymouth District Court for failing to ensure the machine was safe for workers to operate and WorkSafe is now reminding all businesses that machinery must be guarded to the highest standard for all aspects of work carried out on the plant.

In February 2018 the worker was operating a large finger-jointing machine when it became jammed. When the worker went to clear the jam his arm became caught, and was exposed to cutting tools. As a result, three of his fingers were amputated along with two thirds of the palm on his right hand. He has been unable to return to work since the incident.

WorkSafe’s investigation found that where the worker was attempting to clear the jam there was no effective guarding or emergency stops on the machine, said Acting Chief Inspector Danielle Henry.

“In this instance there was more than one location where workers were required to operate the machine from and the company had failed to guard the machine for each location.

“The manufacturing industry needs to be placing the importance of risk assessment and continuous review of their controls high on their agendas.

“Time and time again we are seeing workers sustain life changing injury as a result of operating unguarded machinery. What makes this even more tragic is this young worker has had his career cut short.”

  • A fine of $231,000 was imposed Taranaki Sawmills (maximum penalty is $1.5 million)
  • Reparation of $43,292 (including $15,000 already paid to the victim and $3292 in consequential loss) was ordered.

The Buzz says: While Taranaki Sawmills was fined $231,000 only $43,000 was awarded to the injured worker by way of compensation. We believe this is the wrong way around.

The worker should be given the larger share as $43,000 isn’t even equal one year’s wages. We believe $43,000 is a pitiful amount given the permanent injury and loss of opportunity for the young worker and the fine of $231,000 quite modest compared to the maximum fine of $1.5 million.


Steve Hart is a writer and podcaster.

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