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Paying the price

A fall from height fatal accident in 2005 reportedly resulted in the second highest reparation order made under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
In March 2006, the Tokoroa District Court ordered Carter Holt Harvey Ltd to pay a $30,000 fine and $100,000 in reparations to the family of a worker killed when he fell almost 10 metres to his death through PVC roof sheeting.

Court records showed the roof was easily accessible and there was no guard rail system or designated walkway in place.
Earlier in 2006 a court ordered South Island Seed Dressing and Storage Co Ltd to pay $60,000 to the widow of a maintenance worker killed when he fell 6.5m through a skylight in August 2005.

At the time of CCH’s sentencing, Department of Labour chief advisor, health and safety, Mike Cosman, said the lessons learnt “from these tragic workplace accidents are simple — falls from heights maim and kill”.

He said employers need to properly assess all tasks that involve work at height and ensure appropriate precautions are taken.
Often this can be as simple as roping off or covering fragile materials, or providing designated safe walkways. People have been getting killed this way for years “yet we don’t seem to have learnt the lessons”.

He added the department will continue to take a firm line where there is a clear disregard for basic precautions.
More recently, in March 2007 a roofing contractor was fined $1000 and ordered to pay $1000 in reparations after one of his workers fell 4.7m during a re-roofing job, injuring his spine.

At the time of the incident there was no roof edge protection in place and neither of the two workers present was using a safety harness.
Department of Labour Wellington service manager Alan Cooper said at the time: “This incident emphasises once again just how important it is for employers to make sure their workers have the appropriate gear and protection when working at height.

“The fact is that, whether the fall is one metre or 15 metres, the impact at the bottom can result in serious, even fatal injuries. The frustrating thing is that many of the accidents that happen are easily preventable.”

The Department of Labour’s best practice advice on how to work safely at heights, Guidelines for the Prevention of Falls, can be found at www.osh.govt.nz.

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