A man seriously injured when he was engulfed by boiling steam at Kaitaia's Juken NZ Triboard Mill thought he was going to die and has had to retire early because of the injuries caused.
Juken NZ, which owns and runs the Triboard Mill at Kaitaia, has been fined $365,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $60,000 to the worker who received third degree burns while working at the mill.
The company was sentenced in Kaitaia District Court on Wednesday for breaching health and safety rules. Juken NZ was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and it was revealed in the court that the company had 20 previous health and safety convictions over the last two decades.
Juken NZ was sentenced following an incident which saw a worker suffer serious steam
burns and left him in an induced coma for one and a half days and in hospital for three weeks.
In July 2017 the man, a maintenance electrician, was replacing a heat probe inside an enclosed Triboard manufacturing press, when the press was switched on, engulfing him in hot steam.
He suffered third-degree burns to his hands and wrists, superficial burns to his face and inhalation burns to his throat, lungs and stomach. It remains unclear whether he will regain full function of his hands.
The man, who the Northern Advocate has agreed not to name, said he thought he was going to die in the room and his ongoing injuries meant he had to retire early, after initially taking five months off after he was burnt.
He said he struggled with everyday things and just yesterday, while out fishing, it took him three attempts to pull up the anchor as he does not have much strength in his hands.
He also has to remain covered while out in the sun as his skin is particularly sensitive, but it is the internal injuries caused by the steam that affect him most.
A WorkSafe investigation found that Juken had inadequate health and safety systems in place, failed to provide appropriate controls to ensure the press was prevented from start-up while work was being carried out inside of it, and failed to provide information, training and instructions to protect workers from risks associated with the press.
Workers said they had either never seen a warning sign on the unit warning that it was a restricted area, or that it has been missing for three years.
WorkSafe said Juken exposed the man to a risk of serous injury or death as a result of steam engulfing and enclosed room that workers were able to easily access while the press was in operation.
The man suffered significant, full thickness third degree burns to his hands and wrists that required skin grafts and debridement surgery.
WorkSafe Head of Specialist Interventions Simon Humphries said despite having 20 previous health and safety convictions, Juken NZ has still fallen below the standard of health and safety.
"This company should have learnt from its previous history, but instead another worker has suffered from life-changing injuries,'' Humphries said.
"If you have dangerous areas in your workplace from which workers should be excluded, now is the time to put systems in place to ensure they cannot be put in harm's way.
"Ensure that the area is clearly labelled as dangerous, that access is restricted and that your workers are advised on appropriate procedures when access is required."