Health and safety

Steve Vincent with his grandson, Beauden

Man in a million back at work

E tū member Steven Vincent, is a man in a million after surviving being crushed in a press at Carter Holt Harvey LVL plant at Ruakaka in Northland.

“Basically, I broke just about every bone in my upper body,” Steve says. “I had about a 10% chance of survival, it was touch and go. That first night at the hospital they didn’t think I’d last the night.”

But he did, and last month he was in court to hear the company sentenced, after WorkSafe found the LVL press machine wasn’t guarded, in breach of CHH’s health and safety procedures.

Steve received reparations of $55,000 – though that pales beside the $371,000 in fines and costs for the Government. Steve regards the reparations as “a real cop-out. We were pretty annoyed and we’re still annoyed. I’m still waiting for the Government to write and thank me for the big fine they got,” he says.

The judge added $60,000 to the fine, noting the 26 other health and safety breaches at CHH related to a lack of machine guarding.

A guarding programme has been implemented, though Steve says: “with all those other incidents, you have to wonder is the message getting across? If they’d been fined a million dollars, as they are in other parts of the world, would it have happened?
I doubt it.”

On the plus side, Steve says the company has treated him well, paying for treatment including surgery, and he has also returned to work part-time. However, the future is unclear due to the nature of his injuries.

“I’m down to about 48% lung capacity so I lose so much energy,” he says.

Steve pays tribute to another E tū member, Grant Fischer, a co-worker and paramedic, who acted quickly when Steve got caught in the press, leaving other co-workers frozen in shock. Steve calls him the hero of the night.

“He pulled me out, patched me up, gave me pain relief and got me to the hospital. He saved the day that night.”

E tū understands CHH has spent about $2 million so far on a guarding programme in the wake of Steve’s accident.