Cabinetry firm fined $50K in amputation

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Forum topic by Philip posted 05-10-2011 06:35 PM 2462 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Philip's profile


16 posts in 3032 days

05-10-2011 06:35 PM

Should the company be fined for the workers stupidity? The safety equipment was there, the employee chose not to use it.

”ST. CATHARINES, ON – The Elmwood Group Limited, a St. Catharines, ON manufacturer of custom cabinetry, was fined $50,000 for a violation of Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The fine resulted from an investigation into a Nov. 2009 worker injury at the plant, about an hour northwest of Buffalo, NY. The employee’s supervisor was also fined $4,000 over the same incident.

In 2009, a worker was using a table saw to cut a wooden part for a cabinet. Towards the end of the cut, the worker noticed a fragment of wood coming loose and reached to grab it, when his hand came in contact with the saw blade and three his fingers were amputated.

An investigation found the table saw was properly equipped with a blade guard, but the guard was not in use.

The Elmwood Group pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that the table saw was guarded as did the supervisor.

Elmwood Kitchens’ says its production facility spans over 150,000 square feet and includes technologically advanced woodworking equipment. It distributes cabinetry across Canada and the U.S.”

-- If it was easy, anybody could do it.

21 replies so far

View MrWoodworker's profile


65 posts in 2794 days

#1 posted 05-10-2011 07:32 PM

It’s fairly possible that the employer was negligent by not enforcing the use of the existing safety equipment. If there was a document-able history of such, then yes, the fine is warranted. I worked on a job site once where it seemed to be a badge of honor to flaunt all possible safety precautions. I talked to some of the workers from the offending company about it, and the all agreed it was just the way they did things.

Yes those employees chose every day to ignore safety measures (with the knowledge of the employer), but I assure you when an accident happens, the finger (or stub) will point squarely at the employer.


View C_PLUS_Woodworker's profile


601 posts in 3106 days

#2 posted 05-10-2011 07:37 PM

For $50K, my guess is that the company found it cheaper to plead, pay and get it over with….......than fighting.

Also, I would imagine that the company’s insurance company had more than a little say in how to resolve this issue.

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 4156 days

#3 posted 05-10-2011 07:41 PM

If the saw was a Saw Stop, that would have prevented this catastrophe…


View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3314 days

#4 posted 05-10-2011 08:19 PM

brad_Nailer even the sawstop safty can be manuel overruled
anytime you want …. don´t misunderstand me I´m for the safty tecnic
all the way but even here in Denmark where there is so much control
and safty regulations you wont believe it
there always some workers who find a way around it just to make 50 cent more in an hour
they even teach new people how to do it even before they have used the maschinery one second
and therefor don´t know a damm thing of how it suposed to be operated and sound
I know of a guy who lost half of a hand in a shaper under two minuts after he had started to work
the first day at the job and I know if the other coworkers had learned him the right way
of using the mashine he cuoldn´t have been hurt
no they overruled the buildin safty even though the boss had said they wuold get fired if he saw it once more time …... ten men was fired that day becourse of one stupid accident


View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 3159 days

#5 posted 05-11-2011 07:51 AM

i think these big facilities will laugh at you if you suggest a sawstop to them, the safety feature is great but the saw itself is of an obsolete design. a serious cabinet production facility of that size is probably not gonna use a tablesaw design that hasn’t changed in the past 50 years, but instead use european sliding panelsaws for the sake of productivity and comfort.

european saws have alot of safety features that are enforced by law in europe, but for certain operations (wich are usually forbidden by the constructors) you need to dismantle some safety features like the riving knife and such.
chances are that they permanently removed them out of lazyness and then accidents happen. probably not so much the users fault, the upper chiefs would have known about this and allowed it. somehow taking the responsability of letting their employees work in unreasonably dangerous conditions.

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3389 days

#6 posted 05-11-2011 08:40 AM

At the company I work at real talent is hard to come by, procedures,rules, and safety issues are
easily side tracked by the employee, and overlooked or not seen by management intentionally.
Get the job out the door I guess is a general rule of thumb. Employers have to keep the cost down,
employees have to pump out the jobs, and when all is said and done everyone from the CEO to
the floor sweeper is just tired and frustrated.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View canadianchips's profile


2613 posts in 3196 days

#7 posted 05-11-2011 02:00 PM

I don’t think the owners of the company should have paid that fine ! They provided the equipment that “once ” had the safety equipment needed. The “Workers” took that safety device off. Second: the superviser should not have to pay a fine for trying to babysit “STUPID PEOPLE”, he was not the one that hired the employee, human resourses did, Did they pay anything. ? I think our society is relying on insurance too much. In this case the responsibility is on the employee that had the “Accident”. Trusting technology to be safe is a false sense of security, if you are confident that “SAW STOP” will save your fingers, STICK them in the blade and see what happens.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2889 days

#8 posted 05-11-2011 03:01 PM

I’m so confused about why so many of you dislike Saw Stop? Don’t you want to be safe?

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Ocelot's profile


2113 posts in 2837 days

#9 posted 05-11-2011 03:52 PM

I love the idea of SawStop, but I don’t (yet) own one. But the problem is that the table saw is not the only machine in the shop. When are the SawStop people going to figure out how to do their magic on a joiner or a bandsaw or a miter saw?

There’s a fellow working here who lost a few fingertips on a bandsaw. Another friend and co-worker of mine sawed his watch in two with a miter saw. Lots of blood, but the watch saved his arm. He’s a very fortunate fellow.

We need more, not less, of the safety gear. Miter saws should come equipped with some pretty good clamping stuff so that we don’t have to hold the workpiece, and it should be made easier to use than holding the workpiece. The way to go is get our hands and arms and fingers out of the way. Yeah, it’s going to cost more, but it’s worth it.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3372 days

#10 posted 05-11-2011 05:58 PM

Oh, goody.

We get to re-live the SawStop debate, again ;-)

-- -- Neil

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3469 days

#11 posted 05-11-2011 06:27 PM

I’ll get the popcorn…..time for another raucus debate?

I just wanted to chime in on the case….since it is Canadian law…I am not that familiar with….but for US…this would also happen….OSHA will fine any employer that has such a traumatic injury as it is felt that all accidents are preventable using proper safety techniques….even if the worker attempts to circumvent….employers get the shaft pretty much every time.

I knew a tree company where the worker was unfamiliar with the chipper shredder (he was cautioned to stay away from it)....he didn’t…and was seriously injured (arm amputated – he passed away in the hospital)....the worker was found to be 70% at fault (in a wrongful death suit brought by the parents)...but the employer was still put out of business by fines and lawsuits….the bottom line – your workers must be trained and made to follow all safety requirements….if they don’t – Fire them! as this is the only protection available….sad but true.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Keith Fenton's profile

Keith Fenton

328 posts in 3118 days

#12 posted 05-11-2011 06:42 PM

Every accident isn’t preventable… bottom line…you can’t fix stupid. If this had been the guy’s first safety offense working for this employer, the employer would have had no way of knowing that the guy was going to bypass safety equipment or use equipment he wasn’t trained for. Oh well Sue ‘em all.

-- Scroll saw patterns @

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 3159 days

#13 posted 05-11-2011 07:03 PM

in an ideal world you would get fired for not respecting safety measures, but in reality what i have seen so far is the opposite. when you get a job in a woodworking business, then you are not gonna start by telling your boss “okay, i refuse to use your tablesaw, your shaper and bandsaw because they are old and don’t have modern protections”
that’s a good way of losing your job, so you either quit by yourself or do as everybody else and shut up about it.

and when the tools are equipped with safety features, then i don’t see why the user would take the time to remove them before operating the machine, just for fun?
it’s either that the safety was permanently removed and everybody was aware, or either that the task required them to be removed. in both cases it’s mainly the employers fault

View DrDirt's profile


4510 posts in 3941 days

#14 posted 05-11-2011 07:07 PM

Bottom line is you (as the company) are held responsible for whatever someone does on the shop floor.

Supervisors… are supposed to supervise, and not allow running without guards and such. Not saying I don’t take guard off in my home shop myself.

Basically they say the supervisor should have seen and stopped it. And/Or they should have documented the employee was clueless….doesn’t follow the safety rules and ultimately fired them.

If you push people to cut corners – and something goes sour – you don’t get to in the same breath say it was all the employees fault.

I have never seen a cabinet company that didn’t have Greedo’s obsolete tablesaw there.

Certainly they also had large panel saws as well – but many woud use the big saws to knock down goods to managable pieces, then use the table saw for custom work, and fitting, making dado’s and even some moulding heads.
So Saw Stop would not be laughed out of there.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3335 days

#15 posted 05-11-2011 07:22 PM

As an alternative to the usual debates, it would be more interesting to discuss practical ways of performing the intended operation that would minimize the risk of the type of injury that occured. While it may be true that “every accident isn’t preventable”, it may also be true that these constitue a tiny fraction of the accidents that do occur.

While it might not be the employer’s “fault”, the employer has more control over the working environment than any other party. Even “smart” people will do a bone-headed thing from time to time (or is that just me?), but it IS possible to engineer the work environment to minimize the damage from random acts of stupidity.

-- Greg D.

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