Are Workers lives worth less in Wellington?

04/06/2015 16:27

Two recent workplace deaths one in Hastings and one in Wellington show a glaring gap between the value placed on life in different jurisdictions? In the Wellington case a worker was pasting labels on pulp packs at the port when he was fatally crushed by a forklift leading to his death. Centre point was fined $60,000 and ordered to pay only $15,000 in reparations 

In another case in Hastings an orchardist wass been fined $30,000 and ordered to pay $50,000 reparation after a 17-year-old employee was killed after colliding with a row of apple tress while driving a home-built motorised buggy.

Why is this? Often it will be taken into account a persons ability to pay fines and or reparation. It seems on balance that in the case of the Hastings orchardist the balance was right. Whereas in the Wellington case it seems the balance seems out of sinc.  In both cases the amounts for both fines and reparation were very similar. Both cases are outlined below. 

 

CentrePort to pay $75,691 after worker fatality

4 June 2015

CentrePort Limited has been ordered to pay reparation of $15,000 and fined $60,691 over the death of employee Mark Samoa on 20 January 2013.

Mr Samoa was pasting labels on pulp packs at the port when he was fatally crushed by a forklift. The driver was pushing two stacks together when the incident occurred. Each pack of pulp weighed 4.5 tonnes - the stacks that crushed Mr Samoa weighed 18 tonnes in total.

CentrePort was sentenced in the Wellington District Court today under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of their employee Mr Samoa.

In convicting CentrePort, Judge Bill Hastings found Centreport failed to separate the tasks of the pedestrians pasting and the forklift operations. He also noted that CentrePort failed to have a procedure for the interaction between the pedestrians and the forklift where the bales of pulp were being de-stacked by forklifts and labelled by workers at the same time and in the same premises.

The Judge found that because Centreport failed to have such a procedure for this work, it also failed to train, supervise, implement, monitor and communicate the procedure.

“The judge was clear and so is WorkSafe. Businesses must have clear and well-understood methods of communications between workers undertaking different tasks in the same area,” says Brett Murray, General Manager High Hazards and Specialist Services.

“This fatality could have been avoided if CentrePort had a system in place to keep workers on foot well clear of workers operating heavy machinery.”

Orchardist fined after employee dies while using home-made buggy at work

4 June 2015

Hastings orchardist Hamish Gregory Campbell has been fined $30,000 and ordered to pay $50,000 reparation after a 17-year-old employee was killed after colliding with a row of apple tress while driving a home-built motorised buggy.

Hamish Gregory Campbell was sentenced today in the Hastings District Court under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees.

On 10 December 2013, the employee was tasked with laying reflective paper in between rows of apple trees on the buggy to speed up the ripening process.

A few hours later, when returning the buggy to the shed, he sustained the fatal injuries.

WorkSafe’s investigation uncovered a number of health and safety failings. The buggy was designed and built from a Subaru Brumby vehicle with a home-made chassis. Even at its slowest travel speed it travelled too fast and its steering column was installed skewed to the centre of the chassis. The seating position was insecure, there were no mudguards or fenders, the brakes were defective, the drive train covers and battery were loose, and the fuel tank was not properly connected.

“Apart from the buggy not being fit for purpose as an orchard utility vehicle, Mr Campbell failed to establish whether his employee had experience driving manual vehicles,” says Keith Stewart, WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector. “He also failed to give him enough instruction, training and supervision for the buggy, failed to complete a hazard assessment of the buggy and failed to provide a safe piece of equipment that was designed and fit for purpose.”

Mr Campbell also failed to take practicable steps to minimise risk when designing the buggy, and failed to develop a system for identifying hazards and effectively communicating the hazards to employees.

“The employee had been on the job for five days when he was fatally injured. It was up to Mr Campbell to keep his employee safe at work – he failed this task miserably.”