A major wood processor in Northland is facing a hefty fine after a worker fractured his ribs and collar bones when he was trapped in a machine for about three minutes.

Carter Holt Harvey's laminated veneer lumber (LVL) plant in Ruakaka has admitted a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act in relation to its failure to ensure the protection of its workers.

The charge, laid by WorkSafe New Zealand, carries a maximum fine of $1.5 million.

Sentencing scheduled for the Whangārei District Court yesterday was adjourned until October 29.


According to an agreed summary of facts, Carter Holt Harvey exposed a shift fitter to the hazard of crushing and trapping hazards associated with the movement of the shutter nose belt, a form of conveyor belt.

The man was trapped in the machine by his arm while tracking the belt on the evening of October 13, 2016.

He believed the machine was switched off with just the belts running and the shuttle nose belts secured against movement.

As he leaned into the machine with his hips and torso resting on the frame and his feet off the floor, the top shuttle nose belt moved forward.

A small motor fixed to the shuttle nose belt collided with his chest, causing his chest and shoulder to be crushed between the motor and the machine's frame.

He lost consciousness on impact and his colleagues were not able to get him out until the on-site technician released the brake from the control room about three minutes later.

The man suffered bilateral fractures to four ribs and flail in his upper chest, a life-threatening condition that happens when a segment of the rib cage is broken due to trauma and becomes detached from the rest of the chest wall.

He also fractured both collarbones and his sternum, suffered multiple fractures in his left shoulder, fractured his left arm and nose and suffered multiple forearm lacerations.


He spent one month in Whangārei Hospital but had further surgery on August 21 last year after experiencing diminished lung function.

WorkSafe said the LVL press machine was inadequately guarded in breach of the company's health and safety procedures.

Carter Holt Harvey failed to develop and implement appropriate procedures for manually tracking belts and shuttle nose belts and to ensure they are complied with, the government agency said.

The day after the accident, WorkSafe said, Carter Holt Harvey quickly erected temporary mesh fencing around the machine.