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Experience No Substitute For Risk Management

The death of a West Coast flooring company employee has drawn a strong warning from WorkSafe New Zealand to businesses not to rely on the experience of workers in the absence of proper risk identification and management.

In March 2019 an employee of Coastwide Flooring Limited was installing carpet in a Greymouth building using a strong organic solvent- based adhesive. The worker had 17 years’ experience in the industry.

He was found unresponsive by a co-worker and died three days later in Christchurch Hospital’s intensive care unit.

WorkSafe’s Investigations Manager for the South Island, Steve Kelly, said the company had a lax approach to health and safety.

“The particular adhesive the worker was using was known to be a health hazard, but the company had not undertaken a risk assessment on its use; it had no safe system of work for working with the adhesive – particularly in relation to ventilation and the use of fans; and nor did it provide effective information, training and instruction for workers,” he said.

“The company largely relied on the experience of its workers to protect themselves from the effects of the adhesive, and that approach was simply unacceptable.

“Since this tragic incident, Coastwide Flooring has implemented a suite of improvements to its operations, but for this worker, that is too little too late,” Mr Kelly said.

Today the business appeared in court for failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers and was fined $60,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $105,000 to the victim’s family.

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