Juken NZ has been fined $365,000 and ordered to pay $60,000 to a former employee who was engulfed by boiling steam at its triboard mill in Kaitaia.
The injured man said last week that he had thought he was going to die, while his injuries had forced his early retirement, after five months off work. He continued to have difficulty, having lost strength in his hands, and had to protect his skin from the sun, but it was internal injuries that had affected him most.
The company was sentenced in the Kaitaia District Court last week on convictions of breaching health and safety regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. It was also revealed that it had amassed 20 previous health and safety convictions over the last two decades.
The incident that led to the latest charges, in July 2017, resulted in the worker suffering serious steam burns. He was in an induced coma for 36 hours, and spent three weeks in hospital.
The maintenance electrician had been replacing a heat probe inside an enclosed manufacturing press when the machine was switched on, engulfing him in 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 is still not known if he will regain full use of his hands.
A WorkSafe investigation found that Juken NZ 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 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 sign on the unit warning that it was a restricted area, or that it had been missing for three years.
WorkSafe accused the company of exposing the man to risk of serious injury or death as a result of steam engulfing an enclosed room that workers were easily able to access while the press was in operation.
Head of specialist interventions Simon Humphries said despite having 20 previous health and safety convictions, Juken NZ had still fallen below the required standard of health and safety.
"This company should have learned from its previous history, but instead another worker has suffered from life-changing injuries," he 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."