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School convicted after fatal accident

Media release

5 December 2012

School convicted after fatal accident


Motueka High School Board of Trustees were convicted today at Nelson District Court following the death of child on the school grounds earlier this year and ordered to pay reparation of $60,000.

Five unsafe trees on the school grounds had been felled and cut into logs which were then stacked on the school grounds. A group of children were playing on the logs after school hours when the stack became unstable and one of the logs became dislodged and rolled onto a child killing him.

The Board of Trustees were found to have breached section 15 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 in that it had not taken all practicable steps to ensure that no action or inaction of any employee while at work harms any other person.

Francois Barton, General Manager Health and Safety, Southern Division, said: “Although the felling work had been carried out by professional contractors they had not been asked to stack the logs which the school intended to sell for firewood. Instead this task was left to a member of staff.

“Stacking logs requires an appropriate level of training if it is to be done safely. In this case as the employee did not have any training the safest option would have been to simply lay them on the ground over a larger area rather than attempt to stack them. Alternatively they could have instructed the contractor to do it safely. Had the school had robust health and safety procedures in place and had the Board of Trustees had a good understanding of their legal obligations this accident may have been prevented.

“For the school this was not a common task and in order to ensure that all practicable steps were taken to reduce harm they should have sought professional advice for the entire process. As they didn’t, a tragic and unavoidable fatality occurred.”

Under section 8(4) of the Crown Organisations (Criminal Liability) Act the court may not sentence the defendant to pay a fine.

Ends


Notes to Editors:

• The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 is available online: http://legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1992/0096/latest/DLM278829.html

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