Worker 'trying to help' when arm cut

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014
Glenn Abel
JOHN COWPLAND/ALPHAPIX

LUCKY ESCAPE: Glenn Abel with orthopaedic surgeon Angus Wickham. Mr Abel has had a 15cm piece of glass removed from his neck after a workplace accident that nearly killed him.

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An employee labelled "clumsy" by his boss was just trying to help out a colleague when he fell on to a pane of glass.

Glenn Abel was lucky to survive a 15-centimetre shard breaking off the pane and lodging in his neck.

He was repeatedly told not to go into the area where the accident happened, a WorkSafe New Zealand report reveals.

Napier Glass owner Peter Mickleson also told investigators that the office administrator was "a bit clumsy at times".

The 59-year-old was working at Napier Glass on March 25 when he almost severed his right arm, and shredded his ear into five pieces.

He was taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital's emergency department with the 15cm shard still protruding from his neck.

If it had lodged just a few centimetres to the right, it would have sliced an artery and Mr Abel would have died before getting to hospital.

A little further to the left, and it would have pierced his airway and his brain.

Abel said it was his quick-thinking colleagues and skilled surgeons that saved his life. A year later he still had very little memory of that day.

Yesterday he agreed with WorkSafe investigators that it was likely he tripped over the foot of the storage rack and on to the pane of glass.

The boss was away when the accident happened, so he went over to the storage racks to help out another worker. He believed it was "totally unfair" to be labelled clumsy in the report.

He returned to work four months after the accident, but was dismissed late last year. Mickleson emphasised that the dismissal had nothing to do with the accident.

No charges were being laid because Napier Glass did not breach the law, WorkSafe spokesman Brett Murray said.

The company had since improved the glass rack area. Yellow walkway lines have been painted on the floor and the base of the rack had been filled in with timber.

Despite his rough year, Abel said he was fortunate still to be breathing and to have both arms intact.

Four pieces of glass remained embedded in his shoulder, but that had not stopped him returning to his beloved paddleboarding.

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- The Dominion Post

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