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Playing down workplace incidents doesn’t pay

19 February 2017Media release -

Playing down workplace incidents doesn’t pay

WorkSafe is warning businesses not to play down notifiable events in their workplaces.

Trade Depot Ltd appeared in Auckland District Court in December following an incident where more than 200kg of plasterboard fell on a worker in Takanini. The Court has since released its sentencing decision on the matter.

The May 2016 incident left the worker with a skull fracture and head injuries requiring surgery and four days hospitalisation. The company failed to notify WorkSafe of the incident at the time, and then tried to downplay its severity when it did finally notify WorkSafe.

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.

The incident also put at risk a 14-year-old on unpaid work experience, who was assisting the victim with moving the plasterboard.

WorkSafe Deputy General Manager, Investigations and Specialist Services, Simon Humphries said:

“Trade Depot was aware of the significance of the victim’s injuries. 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. It is reasonable to increase your standard of care when you have more vulnerable workers on site.

Health and safety for young workers, those aged 15 years and under, is not about excluding young people from an industry; it’s about identifying risk, assessing how likely that risk is to occur and managing it effectively”.

WorkSafe has clear guidance around suitable and unsuitable work areas, work and tasks for young workers available on its website.

Notes:

- Trade Depot Ltd was convicted and fined $98,156.25 and ordered to pay $24,000 reparation.

- Trade Depot Ltd faced two charges.

o Under section 36(1)(a), s 48(1) & (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015:-

§ Being a PCBU, failed to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of a worker.

§ Maximum penalty of a fine not exceeding $1,500,000

o Under section 56(1), (2)(b) & (6)(b) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015:-

§ Being a PCBU who became aware that a notifiable event occurred, failed to ensure that the regulator, WorkSafe New Zealand, was notified of the event by the fastest possible as means as soon as possible in the circumstances.

§ Maximum penalty of a fine not exceeding $50,000

ENDS

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