Always identify workplace hazards - A Continuous Daily Process

06/05/2015 09:13

Always identify workplace hazards

5 May 2015

The Hawera District Court has ordered two companies to pay fines and reparation totalling $70,000 after a worker fell into a cellar at a mothballed oil and gas facility in Taranaki.

The worker fell 3.2 metres after a grating covering a well cellar gave way while he was standing on it. An internal investigation found that the clips used to secure the grating were missing.

The worker suffered a 7-centimetre cut to his shin and a compression fracture of his spine but managed to climb the escape ladder, even though it had several broken rungs and was coming away from the top of the cellar wall.

NZEC Wiahapa Limited, which operates the site in partnership with L&M Energy Limited (which was NOT charged), was fined $30,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $10,000.NZEC Waihapa had engaged Vause Wireline Limited to work at the site and the injured man was a contractor engaged by Vause Wireline. Vause Wireline was fined $30,000.

The companies were sentenced today in the Hawera District Court under sections 18 and 50 of the Health and Safety in Employment, after earlier pleading guilty.

WorkSafe New Zealand’s chief inspector Keith Stewart says a full hazard assessment of the site would have identified the risk posed by the cellar, which has now been filled in.

“Both companies had a duty to identify and manage risks at the site before workers were put in harm’s way. A proper assessment would have found that the clips were missing. Given the height of the cellar a second way of securing the grating should also have been in place.

“Vause Wireline should also have ensured there was a safe escape route available if someone did fall.

“This incident could have been avoided with a bit more care and attention to risk identification. Once a hazard is identified it is often relatively simple to manage,” says Keith Stewart.