Board sentenced after scaffold accident

04 Nov 2019

The board of trustees of Tokoroa’s Forest View High School must make  a safety presentation as part of the sentence for a serious scaffolding accident at the school.

In 2018 mobile scaffolding was put up in the school’s auditorium to help in setting up lighting for plays and assemblies. In June a teacher and student fell from the 3.9-metre-high working platform of the scaffold after it tipped over while being moved. Both were knocked unconscious and suffered serious lacerations, fractures and brain injuries.

WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector Investigations Hayden Mander said the school had not developed a safe system of work around the use of the mobile scaffold.

“There were no policies or procedures in place around working from heights, or for student involvement in the use of the scaffold,” he said.

“With no safe systems in place students and staff were exposed to a very real risk of injury and this incident could have had catastrophic consequences.”

At the sentencing at the Tokoroa District Court in October, the judge imposed a health and safety project order under section 155 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 in place of a fine. Reparation of $100,000 was also ordered.

The order requires board of trustees to present a safety presentation at the National Conference of the School Trustees Association in 2020, with a focus on the need to develop and implement a suitable risk management system for in the classroom and extra-curricular activities.

They are also required to prepare a safety article for New Zealand’s online school bulletin, He Pitopito Korero.

Mr Mander says 2018, 2136 workers were away from work for a week or longer as the result of a fall from heights.

 “The risks associated with working from heights are well known and this is why it remains a key focus area for WorkSafe as a regulator.”

 Key takeaways

  • The Forest View High School Board of Trustees was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a) and (2), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
  • Being a PCBU, the board failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of the teacher and student  while at work in the business or undertaking. That failure exposed workers to a risk of death or serious injury, arising from exposure to the hazard of falling from height.
  • S 48 (2)(c) carries a maximum penalty of $1,500,000. 

For more information on scaffolds, go here.