Educational institutions (including schools) need to take all practical steps to prevent harm to their students

12/11/2014 12:40

Student gets $30,000 after 10 metre fall

10 November 2014

Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) has been ordered to pay reparation of $30,000 to a student who fell 10 metres during a high ropes course on 24 March 2014. He suffered a fractured pelvis, a compound fracture to the right elbow and lacerations to this right wrist which needed nine stitches. He had surgery on his elbow and spent seven days in hospital. He was also confined to a wheelchair for four weeks after being discharged from hospital because he could not walk.

Wintec was sentenced today in the Hamilton District Court after being found guilty of three offences under the Health and Safety and Employment Act, including failing to notify WorkSafe New Zealand that the accident had occurred. Wintec also failed to ensure that the student was not harmed by the actions or inactions of its employee while at work and failed to take all practicable steps to ensure a hazard did not harm the student.

WorkSafe New Zealand’s investigation revealed that the fall arrest ropes used by the victim during the class had been incorrectly attached to a thin plastic link on the rear of the chest harness by an unsupervised student. The karabiners were also not hooked through the webbing of both the chest harness and the seat harness.

“While multiple health and safety failings led to this incident, it is unacceptable that an instructor asked a student to fit a harness and then left him on his own to do it without supervision,” says Keith Stewart, WorkSafe New Zealand’s Chief Inspector.

“Wintec had also not assessed the instructor’s competence to teach the high ropes course or provided them with any professional development so they could keep up with industry standards. They also did not have a functional health and safety management system in place at the time of the incident.

“Any high ropes course has a serious risk of fall from heights so it’s crucial that health and safety practices are a priority.”