WorkSafe Prosecution Corner

17 Sep 2019

Two firms received large fines after horizontal beams, or purlins, fell from a ceiling and struck two engineers during the construction of a milking shed in Dipton, Southland.

WorkSafe says the incident shows that when more than one company is working on a site there is a legal requirement that firms consult, cooperate and coordinate their activities to avoid accidents.

The first defendant, a construction company, engaged an engineering firm to install the milking platform.

On May 18, 2017, the construction company was using a mobile scaffold to install purlins in the centre of the pit and these were left unbolted. The company didn’t alert other workers at the site about this and three of the purlins fell 5-6 metres onto the heads of two of the engineering firm’s staff.  One suffered concussion and a mild brain injury and had not been back to work by May 2018. The other suffered fractured vertebrae but has returned to work.

A WorkSafe investigation found the companies failed to ensure other workers on site knew to keep clear of the risk area.

The construction company was fined $150,000, which was reduced for financial reasons, and ordered to pay reparation of $6000. The engineering company was fined $191,250 and ordered to pay reparation of $4000.


Key Takeaways

WorkSafe says the companies should have:

  • Ensured each purlin was securely fastened as it was installed;
  • Made sure that work installing the platform did not begin till the purlins were installed and the structure of the shed was sound;
  • Developed, implemented, communicated and monitored compliance with a safe system of work that included an exclusion zone prohibiting work in area where workers on the ground level were at risk of falling materials;
  • Ensured a risk assessment was carried out before work commenced;
  • Monitored worker’s health and safety performance;
  • Provided workers with information, instructions and training regarding risk management;
  • Consulted as to the scope of their health and safety duties;
  • Co-ordinated activities about the risks when workers were working at height and how they were to be managed.