Northland granddad Steven Glen Vincent can no longer hold his grandson without being supervised and a simple act of changing a light bulb is almost impossible after he was trapped in a machine at work.
An employee of Carter Holt Harvey's (CHH) laminated veneer lumber (LVL) plant in Ruakākā, he felt like he had died and a different person came out of the machine that fractured his ribs and collarbones in a workplace accident.
The company was this week fined $371,250 by the Whangārei District Court and ordered to pay reparation of $55,000 to Vincent and a further $2415 towards the cost of prosecution.
CHH earlier admitted a charge, laid by Work Safe New Zealand, of failing to ensure the protection of its workers. It had 26 previous convictions for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act at its timber mills throughout New Zealand.
Vincent is now working part time at the LVL plant under a rehabilitation plan.
CHH exposed Vincent, 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.
He 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.
Vincent 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 (clavicles) and his sternum, suffered multiple fractures in his left shoulder, fractured his left arm and nose and suffered multiple forearm lacerations. He spent a month in Whangārei Hospital but had further surgery on August 21 last year after experiencing diminished lung function.
Flanked by his family in court while reading an emotionally-charged victim impact statement, Vincent said luckily he wasn't ripped in two while being pulled through the machine.
"I cannot hold my new grandson without being supervised in case I drop him. A simple act of changing a light bulb is becoming almost impossible. I can no longer drive a manual car, getting a smaller chainsaw easily to manage, reduced lung capacity struggle to work short distances,'' he said.
"While in the hospital, the nurses would call me the possum. At around 11pm — that's the time the accident happened — I would be wide awake, could not sleep and I was in a pretty confused state. I would sleep only during the day. I felt like I died that night and a different person has come back," he said.
WorkSafe said the LVL press machine was inadequately guarded in breach of the company's health and safety procedures.
CHH 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, CHH erected temporary mesh fencing around the machine.