The Northern Advocate

‘Every day a challenge’ after injury at workplace

Firm fined $220k after man loses part of finger

- Imran Ali

Losing most of the strength in an arm during a workplace accident hasn’t stopped a Northland man from using a drone to fulfil his unbridled passion for fishing off the rocks.

The top of the experience­d machine operator’s left index finger had to be amputated and he lost 30 per cent of his nail bed on the middle index finger while working at Donovan Group NZ Limited in Whangārei.

The company admitted in the Whangarei District Court it breached the Health and Safety at Work Act in a prosecutio­n brought by WorkSafe and was this week fined $220,000.

Judge John McDonald ordered the company to pay the injured worker $31,000 in emotional harm reparation and a regulator’s cost of $3873 to WorkSafe.

Donovan Group did not wish to comment about the case after sentencing.

The worker, who did not want to be identified, came to New Zealand in late 2008 on a special work visa to work as a machine operator.

“I used to fish every weekend but can’t do that off the rocks anymore because of loss of strength in my left hand so I bought a drone and fish off the drone. There’s some good snapper around,” the father of two said.

He has since left Donovan and recently found similar work at another company in Whangārei.

The worker can not lift any weight over 20kg and gets tired easily.

The accident has changed his life forever and believes he won’t be able to regain the full strength in his left hand, despite rehabilita­tion and physiother­apy.

“I can’t undo what has happened. Every day is a new challenge for me but I think positive no matter what the situation. There’s no point in dwelling too much at what happened.”

In his victim impact statement, the worker said he could now only watch cricket rather than play due to the damage to his left hand.

“When he came to New Zealand, he learnt how to fish. Something him and his family did together. That is now difficult because of loss of grip. He’s frustrated his wife has to do more work around the house because he can’t anymore,” Judge McDonald said.

Donovan is in the business of custom design and build of large-scale steel commercial buildings nationwide.

The injured worker was employed as a machine operator and welder and was operating the Amada hydraulic-powered press brake that presses and bends metal sheets.

There was no guarding on the front of the machine at the time of the incident.

On June 16 last year while working on the Amada, the worker became off balance due to the size and weight of a bracket he was making and his hand slipped into the machine and injured his fingers.

He was taken to the Whangārei Hospital and then flown to Middlemore Hospital in Auckland where he underwent surgery. He was off work for seven months and underwent hand therapy to help with his recovery.

WorkSafe engaged Scott Jackson of RJ Nelligan and Associates to provide an expert opinion on the guarding of the Amada.

Jackson outlined a number of guarding options and the likely costs.

He said it was possible to install physical guarding and a light curtain safeguardi­ng device to the machine.

The injured worker told WorkSafe he was not taken through the risk assessment document for Amada and did not have an operator’s manual for the machine on the date of the incident.

“A readily foreseeabl­e consequenc­e of exposure to moving parts of the Amada press brake is a serious injury,” WorkSafe told the court.

WorkSafe lawyer Karina Sagaga said Donovan Group’s culpabilit­y was assessed as medium and the appropriat­e starting point for a fine would be $450,000.

In his submission, Donovan Group’s lawyer Brett Harris said the Amada has

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