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Spindle router accident on Sir Peter Jackson's Anzac exhibition

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Posted 13 April 2015 - 01:49 PM

'Monster' machine claims worker's thumb


Last updated 05:00, April 13 2015

A worker on Sir Peter Jackson's Anzac exhibition had his palm ripped out and lost a thumb in a "spindle monster" accident.

The accident happened on a joinery machine, called a spindle router, on Thursday night in Stone St, in the eastern Wellington film hub suburb of Miramar.

The machine is essentially a large upside-down router which is bleakly dubbed the "spindle monster" in the industry because it is one of the most-dangerous machines in a joinery workshop.

A spindle moulder machine.

A spindle moulder machine.

Wellington Free Ambulance spokeswoman Diane Livingstone said a man in his 40s was picked up from Stone St, Miramar, at 9.30pm on Thursday. He was taken to Wellington Hospital's emergency department with serious hand injuries.

He was transferred to Hutt Hospital, where surgeons worked from midnight on Thursday till 2.30am on Friday, then for nine more hours later that day in the hope of saving the man's use of his fingers.

Consultant plastic surgeon Craig MacKinnon said the left thumb was not able to be saved. "It looked like the whole palm of the hand had been ripped out."

The tendons and nerves were badly damaged and five nerve grafts were needed as well as tendon repairs in the nine-hour operation.

Tissue was taken from the man's thigh to replace the palm.

The spindle router was "one of the more dangerous machines to get your hand caught" because it caused "complex injuries", MacKinnon said. It was hoped – though not guaranteed – the man would get use of his fingers after months of rehabilitation.

A hospital spokeswoman said he was in a satisfactory condition yesterday.

The man had worked shifts of more than 12 hours a day in the weeks before the accident, sources said.

Jackson's spokesman, Matt Dravitzki, confirmed there was an accident and said the company was supporting the man and his family and WorkSafe NZ had been notified. He would not comment further.

The Dominion Museum exhibition is scheduled to open on Saturday.

The source said extra crews were being brought in to finish the project in time: "They are just pushing these guys."

The machine, which is used for running shaped profiles into wood, has two high-speed steel profile knives which spin at about 10,000 revolutions per minute.

People usually fed wood in with a roller system as hand-feeding was too dangerous as it was easy to lose control of the wood, which could tip into the cutters or spat out like a "missile", the source said. "Thumbs usually go off first as you tend to try to hold on to the work piece. It all happens in a split second."

The injured worker did not want to speak about the incident.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said, even if the man was a contractor, the people in charge of the operation were obliged to make sure it was a safe workplace.

Assuming he was a contractor, the man was also obliged to make sure it was safe.

New Zealand's work laws meant people tended to work "zero hours or zillions of hours" and – for the workers of long hours – health and safety was sometimes ignored. "It's time workers are put at the top of the list."

A WorkSafe confirmed it was notified on Friday morning of the the incident and was investigating it.

The temporary exhibition at the Dominion Museum building – behind Wellington's carillon – is being driven by Jackson in conjunction with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

A ministry spokeswoman said it was aware of the incident, but had no comment to make, other than the fact that it was concerned for the injured man and his family.

The incident would not affect construction of the Anzac exhibition. "It's all on track."

Exhibitions will include a diorama recreation of Chunuk Bair with 4000 tiny pewter warriors. It is set to run for four years.

Weta Workshop is also working on another war exhibition for Te Papa. Gallipoli, The Scale of War opens on April 18.

- Stuff

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