Timber company fined after worker loses fingers and thumb
25 September 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.
WorkSafe’s 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, WorkSafe’s 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. It’s that simple.”
Rise & falls saws (Fact sheet)
A rise and fall saw follows a cycle of operations until the cut is complete. A clamp holds timber against the table, while a circular blade lifts to cut through it. Once the cut is complete, the blade retracts, the clamp lifts, and the timber can be moved, ready for the next cycle.
A rise and fall saw is used to cut knots and other imperfections from lengths of timber, as well as cutting timber for items like pallets and packing cases.
- Contact with clamp
- Contact with blade
- Slips, trips and falls
- Contact with exposed blades (during maintenance, cleaning & repairs)
Figure 1: Rise and fall saw
Task - Secure timber
|Contact with clamp||
Task – Cut timber
|Contact with blade||
Cutting cycles can start by accident. Blades running down to stop turning after a cycle will present a hazard if access to them is possible before they stop turning.
Other (non-mechanical) hazards
|Slips, trips and falls||
Task - Maintenance, cleaning & repairs
|Contact with exposed blades||
Blades may be exposed when operators open the cabinet beneath the saw table for cleaning or blade replacement.
Figure 2: Example of tunnel guard
Figure 3: Finger guard (out-feed only)
Figure 4: In-feed/out-feed options
Tunnel Guard - Option 1
Tunnel Guard - Option 2 (refer to Figure 2)
Tunnel Guard - Option 3 (ie. both buttons must be activated together to operate the saw)
Finger Guard - Option 4 (refer to Figure 3)
- Minimum distances between the fingers and the clamp or the saw MUST be 120 mm (refer AS 4024.1)
- Out-feed fingers and spacing MUST be no less than 12 mm and no greater than 20 mm (refer diagram below) and MUST extend the full width of the bench unless otherwise guarded.
- Gap between bottom of finger and table top MUST not be more than 20 mm.
- Finger MUST open outwards only and MUST be prevented from returning past vertical.
Finger Guard - Front elevation
Trip Guard - Option 5
Note: In-feed and out-feed options can be interchangeable to meet production requirements (except Option 3)