No excuse for inadequate machine guards
Firewood Direct (Motueka) Limited has been fined $25,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $40,000 (plus $836.46 in lost earnings) after one of its workers suffered horrific injuries when his hand was struck by a log-splitter ram in February.
The worker was attempting to clear by hand a small piece of wood that he thought was affecting the operation of the firewood processing machine he was operating. As he reached into the machine from the control booth he inadvertently hit the auto-split button with his leg or knee – activating the ram while his hand was in the log splitting chamber.
The victim suffered substantial injuries: his hand was crushed and this required the removal of three fingers and a portion of his left hand. In addition his forearm was degloved and he fractured one of the bones in his forearm and broke several ribs. He has not returned to work since the incident. In addition, the victim remained on site without pain relief or medical care for 40 minutes prior to the arrival of emergency services.
Firewood Direct (Motueka) plead guilty to one charge under sections 6 and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure an employee was kept safe at work. It was sentenced today in the Nelson District Court.
WorkSafe New Zealand’s Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says the firewood machine did not have appropriate guards in place to stop workers accessing moving parts while it was in operation. As is so often the case the worker, in an attempt to make the process work better, reached into the machine.
“If there had been proper machine guards in place he would not physically have been able to reach into the log-splitting chamber from the control booth. All the industry standards and guidelines for the safe use of machinery make it clear that appropriate guards are required.”
“Sadly yet another person now has very disabling injuries because of the dangers associated with log splitters. Guidance is available to inform employers and owners on how to make the machines safe,” says Keith Stewart.