Firewood company owner lied to WorkSafe after worker was badly hurt by wood splitter

The director of a company which supplies firewood in Southland has been convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice after he tried to get an injured worker to lie to WorkSafe.

Firewood (file picture). Source: Supplied

A 24-year-old worker on Davin James Heaps' premises - Hippos Fire Wood operating out of Invercargill - suffered serious crush and laceration injuries while using a wood splitter in 2017.

At the time, Heaps told Stuff that the worker's injuries was a minor cut to the back of his hand.

In a  press release this afternoon, WorkSafe say Heaps had been convicted under the Crimes Act and sentenced to four months of community detention over the incident after he tried to convince the worker to lie to WorkSafe.

A fine of $273,288 was also deemed appropriate, but it was unable to be imposed due to Heaps' financial circumstance.

Heaps was ordered to pay a total sum of $36,110 to the victim over a period of five years.

WorkSafe also made an adverse publicity order, which means the company has to publish details of the ruling in newspapers around the region.

WorkSafe Chief Operating Officer Phil Parkes said that Heaps' actions in lying and pressuring the injured worker to lie were appalling.

"It is entirely appropriate that Heaps' behaviour has resulted in two firsts for WorkSafe - the first conviction for perverting the course of justice taken by WorkSafe under the Crimes Act 1961 and the first adverse publicity order under HSWA," Mr Parkes said.

"WorkSafe's response to Heaps' behaviour should send a clear message - HSWA places responsibilities on duty holders to protect workers. WorkSafe will not tolerate duty holders trying to absolve themselves of that responsibility.

"Criminal behaviour by duty holders deserves appropriate enforcement action, and I am pleased to say the vast majority of businesses in New Zealand do care about their workers and make sure they can go home healthy and safe every day."