Timber company fined after worker loses fingers and thumb

29/09/2015 20:40

25 September 2015

[image] Figure 1: Rise and fall saw.

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
  • Noise
  • Dust
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Contact with exposed blades (during maintenance, cleaning & repairs)



[image] hazard - need earmuffs.  [image] hazard - need safety glasses. [image] hazard - need face mask.


Figure 1: Rise and fall saw

[image] Figure 1: Rise and fall saw.


Task - Secure timber

Hazard   Harm   Controls
Contact with clamp [image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • Trapped hand
  • Crush injuries
[image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • CLOSE OFF the tunnel to within 10 mm above and on the sides of the timber being cut.
  • The tunnel guard must be no further than 6 mm away from the clamping hood and must not create a trapping point.


Task – Cut timber

Hazard   Harm   Controls
Contact with blade [image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • Deep cuts or amputation
[image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • FIX guarding to prevent access to the blade.
  • REPLACE damaged guards.
  • USE two-hand control to ensure that both hands are removed from the point of operation.
  • USE a push stick or the following piece of timber to clear timber in the tunnel.
  • COVER pedals to prevent accidental operation.


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

Hazard   Harm   Controls
Noise [image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • Hearing damage or loss
  • Discomfort/ringing in
    the ears
[image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • REDUCE noise levels by isolating machines or enclosing within noise barriers.
  • ASSESS noise levels.
  • ARRANGE hearing screenings.
  • ALWAYS WEAR hearing protection.


Hazard   Harm   Controls
Dust [image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • Eye irritation or damage
  • Breathing problems,  lung damage or  cancer
  • Worsening of existing health problems
[image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • USE dust extraction equipment to minimise dust getting in the operator’s breathing zone.
  • ALWAYS WEAR eye protection.
  • ALWAYS USE respiratory protection.


Hazard   Harm   Controls
Slips, trips and falls [image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • Trapping
  • Cuts
  • Bruising
[image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • KEEP up-to-date housekeeping procedures.
  • KEEP the area around saws clear of slip and trip hazards.


Task - Maintenance, cleaning & repairs

Hazard   Harm   Controls
Contact with exposed blades [image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • Deep cuts or amputation
[image] right pointing arrow denoting can lead to.
  • LOCK-OUT all power supplies before maintenance, cleaning and repairs, or adjusting blades and guards.
  • ENCLOSE saw blades in a guard to prevent access until the blade stops moving.

Blades may be exposed when operators open the cabinet beneath the saw table for cleaning or blade replacement.


Figure 2: Example of tunnel guard

[image] Figure 2: Example of tunnel guard.


Figure 3: Finger guard (out-feed only)

[image] Figure 3: Finger guard (out-feed only).


Figure 4: In-feed/out-feed options

[image] Figure 4a: Tunnel Guard - Option 1.

Tunnel Guard - Option 1


[image] Figure 4b: Tunnel Guard - Option 2 (refer to Figure 2).

Tunnel Guard - Option 2 (refer to Figure 2)


[image] Figure 4c: Tunnel Guard - Option 3.

Tunnel Guard - Option 3 (ie. both buttons must be activated together to operate the saw)


[image] Figure 4d: Finger Guard - Option 4.

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.


[image] Figure 4e: Finger Guard - Front elevation.

Finger Guard - Front elevation


[image] Figure 4f: Trip Guard - Option 5.

Trip Guard - Option 5

Note: In-feed and out-feed options can be interchangeable to meet production requirements (except Option 3)