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Thomas - Untrained use of machinery

Illustrates saw machinery in factory

Thomas is a Cook Islands Maori in his early thirties and was working as a contractor at a large saw mill. A skill-saw Thomas was using kicked back, amputating three fingers and partially severing the fourth.

Thomas’ normal role involved working through stacks of timber, taking out the fillets that separated them and then re-stacking the timber ready for shipment. Workloads at the plant varied and staff had to find other tasks to do until their work was available.

On the morning of the incident, Thomas and his colleagues had been told by their supervisor that they had to find more to do in the down-time between de-filleting jobs. Thomas decided to use this time to cut cardboard ‘corners’, used in packaging export timber. The corners were made by splitting a thick cardboard tube vertically, and then cutting the resulting half-round into sections. Although the company had not officially approved the process, it was common practice.

To cut the cardboard rolls Thomas used a hand-held skill-saw. He placed the tube between two small stacks of timber to hold it steady. Holding the saw in his right hand, he had cut halfway down the tube when it began to turn. He placed his left hand behind the saw to steady the roll. The saw jammed and kicked back severing the first two fingers and the little finger and partially severing his ring finger.

With help from his colleague, Thomas held his hand over his head to slow the bleeding while another colleague collected his severed fingers and another applied a tourniquet.

Thomas was off work for three months and still has limited hand function, despite the doctors being able to save two fingers. The emotional effects of the injury were not confined to Thomas but also impacted on his colleagues who witnessed the incident.

Don’t do a job if haven’t been trained properly and you think it looks risky.

There are some simple things you can do while working: drink plenty of water, take breaks and if a situation looks or feels dodgy then STOP. THINK about your options and DO act in the safest way.

Thomas’ story – taken from Aftermath, M. Adams et al