A sentencing in the Wellington District Court yesterday has underlined the importance of managing fall from height workplace hazards after a construction worker fell from a ladder and sustained serious brain injuries.
Geordie Grieve, trading as Geordie Grieve Builders, was fined $15,000 and ordered to pay $48,592.43 in reparations to the injured employee after being found guilty of one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 for failing to take all practicable steps to keep a worker safe.
On 10 March 2015, the worker employed by Mr Grieve was using a ladder while dismantling a balcony 2.8m from the ground. As the worker attempted to get down from the ladder, the bottom of the ladder slipped forward and the worker fell, hitting his head on the ground.
As a result of the fall, the worker suffered skull fractures and complex head injuries.
A WorkSafe New Zealand investigation concluded that Mr Grieve failed to ensure that a fall from height hazard, a common cause of harm in the construction industry, was properly managed. It was revealed that the ladder’s rubber non-slip feet were worn out and therefore unable to keep the ladder steady – posing a major risk to anyone using it.
WorkSafe’s Construction Programme Manager Marcus Nalter says this incident could have been avoided if Mr Grieve had taken active steps to manage the hazard by making sure that the company’s ladders were fit for safe use, and any defective ladders were not used by workers until fixed or replaced. Non-slip feet for ladders cost approximately $14 per pair to replace.
“Working from height is a significant hazard, so appropriate steps must to be taken to ensure that any potential exposure to harm is minimised. Mr Grieve’s failure to identify and fix the ladder’s worn out feet heavily increased the chance of a fall from height occurring,” says Mr Nalter.
“Every employee has the right to expect to go home healthy and safe every day. In this case, basic hazard management failures put an employee in hospital for over two months with very serious injuries.”