Firm avoids prosecution despite safety failure

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A nationwide firm has avoided prosecution following a serious workplace accident after all parties involved agreed enforceable undertaking would provide the best overall outcome.

The accident occurred when an employee for Directionz Limited was using a portable angle-grinder to cut bolts off a post – the blade disintegrated and sent fragments into the worker’s face, penetrating their safety glasses.

The employee sustained cuts to their face and was required to have one of their eyes removed.

Following its investigation into the incident, WorkSafe alleged that Directionz had failed under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of a worker.

However, Directionz – which installs and maintains road signs across the country – proposed an enforceable undertaking which was later accepted by WorkSafe New Zealand.

Simon Humphries, manager of technical programs and support at WorkSafe, said the decision would have a positive impact on the workplace, industry and community.

“The incident has prompted major reform and rectifications in the standard operating procedures and safety protocols of Directionz,” said Humphries.

“The enforceable undertaking will see a more vigilant approach to monitoring changing work conditions, from methodology, the type of equipment used and the personal protection equipment used by workers,” he added.

Reno Wijnstok, managing director of Directionz, also said important lessons had been learned from the accident.

“This incident serves as a reminder to remain ever vigilant when assessing equipment and hazards,” he said. “It also reinforces the use of appropriate personal protection equipment.”

The victim, who remains unnamed, also supported the undertaking and agreed to assist with the deployment of a Trauma Management System to share their experience and assist others.

Under the enforceable undertaking, Directionz Limited committed to initiatives summing at least $229,674 including:
  • Providing financial reparation to the victim.
  • Deploying a higher qualified Health, Safety, Quality and Environment Co-Ordinator to oversee implementation of commitments to improvements in health and safety systems.
  • Providing Incident Cause Analysis Method training for regional managers.
  • Having 10 operational supervisors accredited with the SiteSafe Supervisor Gold Card.
  • Having all staff complete and pass the CONSTRUCTSAFE programme and SiteSafe passport.
  • Engaging services of Massey University and other experts to provide a “best practice” working guide for laymen.
  • Providing “safe operation” documentation for grinding equipment to retail and safety suppliers for distribution to staff.
  • Making a donation to the Blind Foundation.
  • Developing and delivering a work and safety programme for local high school students (16 students over two years).

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