$150,000 fine after safety warnings ignored and man crushed
11 May 2008
A Gisborne company has been fined $150,000 and ordered to pay $22,000 in reparations to a worker who fell from a work platform and was badly crushed by a logging truck. Staff had previously warned the employer about the need to maintain the platform ramp wires.
“This should be a clear reminder to employers about both the importance of maintaining equipment in a fit state for use and to act on health and safety concerns raised by their staff,” Department of Labour Regional Manager (Waikato/Eastern) Ona De Rooy said.
Appearing in the Gisborne District Court on Thursday (8 May), the Owens Cargo Company Limited pleaded guilty to a charge under sections 6 and 49 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act. Appearing for sentencing on Friday, (9 May) Judge Thorburn fined the company $150,000, and ordered it to pay $22,000 to the victim and $2000 in solicitor’s costs.
The Department said the prosecution was taken under section 49 of the Act to reflect that the employer had known it was reasonably likely that an employee would suffer serious harm, however failed to take action to fix the problem. This section of the Act is used in only the most serious of cases.
“While the injuries suffered by the victim were significant, this awful incident could very easily have resulted in a fatality,” the Ms De Rooy said.
“People who do a job every day can often provide the best information about health and safety problems, and how to fix those problems. Employers must listen to, and act on, health and safety concerns to avoid the human and financial cost of workplace injuries.”
The prosecution followed an incident on February 22 last year where a worker, Paul Trevor Coker, fell from a work platform into the path of a moving truck when a wire rope failed. He suffered a compound fracture to his left tibia and fibula, a severe crush injury to his right hand and right ankle, a soft tissue injury to his right shoulder, a significant chest injury with posterior right-sided rib fractures and a lung contusion.
Staff, including Mr Coker, had previously warned their employer about the state of the wires and the need to replace them, most recently at a health and safety meeting the day before Mr Coker’s injury. The employer was also aware that another worker had fallen in the same way, but was not injured, approximately six months prior. Despite this, no action had been taken to replace the wires as at the date of Mr Coker’s injury.