New Zealand Law Society - Home improvement firm fined for playing down serious accident

Home improvement firm fined for playing down serious accident

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Trade Depot Ltd has been fined $98,156 and ordered to pay $24,000 reparation after more than 200kg of plasterboard fell on a worker in Takanini in South Auckland.

The May 2016 incident left the worker with a skull fracture and head injuries requiring surgery and four days hospitalisation. The company failed to notify WorkSafe of the incident at the time, and then tried to downplay its severity when it did finally notify the agency.

When asked for a description of the injury, Trade Depot noted “probable concussion from impact” with no reference to extensive bleeding, fractures, surgery and hospitalisation.

“Trade Depot was aware of the significance of the victim’s injuries. Deliberately downplaying the significance of the injuries appears to be an attempt to avoid the consequences, and demonstrates a lack of compassion for a worker seriously injured while doing his job,” says WorkSafe Deputy General Manager, Investigations and Specialist Services, Simon Humphries.

The incident also put at risk a 14-year-old on unpaid work experience, who was assisting the victim with moving the plasterboard.

“Young workers are not experienced, and employers can’t expect them to have the knowledge or confidence to speak out if they are feeling unsafe. It is reasonable to increase your standard of care when you have more vulnerable workers on site,” says Mr Humphries.

“Health and safety for young workers, those aged 15 years and under, is not about excluding young people from an industry; it’s about identifying risk, assessing how likely that risk is to occur and managing it effectively.”

The firm appeared in Auckland District Court in December; the Court has since released its sentencing decision.

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