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Company Fined After Employee Falls Five Metres

1 March 2012

Company Fined After Employee Falls Five Metres

A roofing contractor who changed an agreed safety procedure, resulting in one of his employees falling 5.4 metres onto concrete, has been fined $5,000 today.

Louis James Petersen, trading as LJ Roofing, was also ordered to pay $5,000 in reparation to the injured man, who Department of Labour Southern Manager Jean Martin described as extremely fortunate to only suffer a fractured elbow.

The Christchurch District Court heard that Peterson was replacing roofing iron on a commercial building in Sockburn in May 2011, and had agreed with the roofing contractor who hired him to remove and replace one 400mm-wide sheet at a time.

This gap was considered narrow enough to avoid falls but it was later decided that removing one sheet at a time wasn’t practical and increased it to three. This left a 1.2m gap however the safety procedure was not amended. As three workers carried a replacement sheet over the gap by standing on purlins, one of them fell.

Ms Martin says that, having agreed safe practice, it was unacceptable for the employer to change how the task was carried out without further discussion.

“With no safety procedures in place, a gap of this width presented a huge danger to the workers,” says Ms Martin.

“This employee was not using a harness or safety line, and there was no fall protection.

“The defendant was aware of and trained in height safety measures and associated industry guidelines, but chose to do nothing to prevent a fall. This was negligence – and an illustration of the need for the three-year harm reduction campaign we launched last December to raise awareness about working safety at height.

“A fall of much less than this one can kill, so this worker is very fortunate, others have not been.

This is a timely reminder to all employers that they are responsible under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to ensure that their employees are kept safe and healthy at work.

The Department’s campaign focuses on ladder and roof safety throughout the construction sector.

“Builders, roofers, electrical workers, painters and decorators are the most likely to fall from height and get seriously hurt while they are working. Working safely isn’t rocket science but it does mean identifying hazards, doing something about them and continuing to monitor the situation,” says Ms Martin.

Louis James Petersen was convicted on one charge under Section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

Section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 states: Every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work; and in particular shall take all practicable steps to—

o (a) provide and maintain for employees a safe working environment; and
o (b) provide and maintain for employees while they are at work facilities for their safety and health; and
o (c) ensure that plant used by any employee at work is so arranged, designed, made, and maintained that it is safe for the employee to use; and
o (d) ensure that while at work employees are not exposed to hazards arising out of the arrangement, disposal, manipulation, organisation, processing, storage, transport, working, or use of things—
(i) in their place of work; or
(ii) near their place of work and under the employer's control; and
o (e) develop procedures for dealing with emergencies that may arise while employees are at work.

• The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 is available here.
• Further information on the Department’s Fall from Heights project can be found online: http://www.dol.govt.nz/prevent-falls/index.asp

ENDS

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