Health and safety failures see companies penalised

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The death of a forestry contracting company crew member in a tree-felling accident in November last year has resulted in a $67,500 fine for the business.

However, due to the company’s financial circumstances the judge reduced the amount to $34,000.

Great Lake Harvesting Limited was also ordered to pay the 23-year-old victim’s family $60,000 in emotional harm reparations when it was sentenced in the Palmerston North District Court.

The company was charged under the Health and Safety in Employment Act (Section 6) with failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of the employee as it did not ensure the victim was not exposed to hazards arising from a tree felling operation.

The Court heard the victim, who had no training, felled a tree which then leaned into another resulting in it being “hung up”. As he began to cut the second tree down, the hung up tree freed itself and fell onto the man, killing him.

“This inexperienced worker – he’d only been felling trees for a week and a half – was not supervised properly by the company. Combined with his lack of training, his inexperience should have been a red flag to his employer,” Keith Stewart, Chief Inspector Investigations, Keith Stewart, said in a statement.

“Employers have to ensure their workers are safe at all times, and when they’re dealing with inexperienced, untrained workers, there’s added incentive for them to do everything they need to do to ensure preventable accidents like this tragedy do not occur.”

Meanwhile two Dunedin companies also found themselves with fines to pay for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of an employee while at work.

Everitt Enterprises Limited was fined $40,000 (but will only have to pay $30,000 because of financial circumstances) and ordered to pay reparations to the victim of $10,500. The worker fell from a height while dismantling Allied Press’ printing press in May last year.

Harraway and Sons was fined $22,500 and ordered to pay $12,500 in reparations to its injured worker, who lost the tips of two fingers in a machine accident in January. However, as the company had already paid the victim $6,060, the final reparations to be paid will be $6,440.

In the Everitt case, the worker fell from an extension ladder which had become covered with ink from the press and was not secured. The employee sustained fractures from the fall.

The injury in the Harraway case was caused when the victim was able to reach into a machine while it was running. The machine did not have a correctly installed guarding system to ensure this was not possible. It also had a number of guarding faults and required several guarding options, including a lock process, to comply.

Stewart said the lessons from the two Dunedin cases were for all employers to be vigilant and actively seek out potential danger spots and address them

“In both cases, taking simple safety steps would have prevented these unnecessary injuries to workers,” he said.

  • Greg on 11/11/2013 10:12:23 a.m.

    As these cases and pprosecutions are on the increasse, and along with the recent $75,000 for a carton in an aisle at Briscoe's has there been any examples where an employee has had to pay reparation to an employer for reckless behaviour? How long before counter-suits begin to appear?

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