$120K fine for firm that downplayed employee injury

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An Auckland home improvement store has been fined over $120,000 after it downplayed the serious injuries sustained by one of its employees while at work.

The incident occurred when more than 200kg of plasterboard fell on an employee, leaving him with a skull fracture and head injuries requiring surgery and four days hospitalisation.

Trade Depot Ltd – the man’s employer – failed to notify WorkSafe at the time and later attempted to understate the severity of the incident.

When asked for a description of the injury, Trade Depot noted “probable concussion from impact” with no reference to extensive bleeding, fractures, surgery and hospitalisation.

A 14-year-old youth on unpaid work experience was also put at risk in the incident as he has been helping the victim move the plasterboard when it fell.

Simon Humphries, WorkSafe’s deputy GM of investigations and specialist services, took aim at the company and condemned its actions.

“Trade Depot was aware of the significance of the victim’s injuries,” he said. “Deliberately downplaying the significance of the injuries appears to be an attempt to avoid the consequences, and, demonstrates a lack of compassion for a worker seriously injured while doing his job.”

WorkSafe also commented on the presence of the 14-year-old on the site.

“Young workers are not experienced, and employers can’t expect them to have the knowledge or confidence to speak out if they are feeling unsafe,” said the organisation. “It is reasonable to increase your standard of care when you have more vulnerable workers on site.”

Ultimately, Trade Depot was convicted and fined $98,156.25 – it was also ordered to pay $24,000 in reparation.

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