Employer to pay employee $80,000 after tree trunk fractures skull

06/05/2015 09:17

Employer to pay employee $80,000 after tree trunk fractures skull

5 May 2015

Gardening business Hao & Liu Union Limited has been ordered to pay reparation of $80,000 after an employee suffered a severe brain injury and a depressed skull fracture when a tree trunk struck him on the head and back. He underwent two surgeries as a result and has since returned to China where he will continue to receive rehabilitation.

Hao & Liu Union Limited was sentenced in the Auckland District Court under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of an employee.

The employee had only been working at Hao & Liu Union Limited for a few weeks when he was contracted, along with others, to remove two trees from the Avondale Motor Park on 14 July 2014. His job was to remove falling tree branches and put them through a wood chipper.

Later in the day, the arborist was cutting off the top section of the tree trunk not realising that the employee was under the tree. The arborist pushed off the cut section of the truck and then heard a shout. As he looked down he saw the tree trunk hitting the employee.

“Hao & Liu Union Limited had not adequately trained and supervised the employee,” says Keith Stewart, Chief Inspector at WorkSafe New Zealand.

“They should have ensured there was clear communication between the arborist and other employees, and marked out unsafe areas under and around the tree. This simple step would have ensured that the ground crew knew to keep out of those areas.

“The employee was also not wearing his safety helmet or his high-visibility clothing in the areas where they were cutting down the tree.

“These were all practicable steps that the employer should have taken to keep staff safe.”