WorkSafe is reminding companies to ensure the contractors they employ are competent for the job at hand after an inexperienced forestry worker was hit by a falling tree
Central Siteworks Limited (in liquidation) was sentenced at the Waitakere District Court for failing to ensure a worker was safe while felling trees. Central Siteworks engaged a crew to undertake forestry work at their Waitakere site. In April 2017 one of the crew was cutting down a tree when it fell on him, causing significant chest injuries.
WorkSafe’s investigation found that the worker did not have any forestry or arboriculture qualifications and none of the crew could demonstrate that they had received any training. The crew had experience in undertaking small scale tree removal but had not undertaken forestry work or extraction and removal of a large scale woodlot.
WorkSafe’s Acting Chief Inspector Investigations Danielle Henry said it’s up to the hiring contractor to ensure the workers they engage are capable for the job at hand.
“The health and safety plan for the site was incomplete and workers were only informed about some of the hazards after work had already commenced. Safety should be embedded in the job plan – not an “add on” once dangerous work is already underway.”
Central Siteworks was voluntarily placed into liquidation prior to being sentenced. WorkSafe sought and was granted by the High Court permission to continue proceedings against the company.
In considering WorkSafe’s application to continue proceedings, Judge Smith noted a previous comment by Justice Venning in an unrelated case in which he said: “…companies facing prosecution by regulatory authorities should not consider that they can avoid prosecution or penalty by voluntary liquidation. Liquidation should not be seen as a means of escaping or avoiding the consequences of criminal activity.”
At sentencing, Judge Jelas considered that Central Siteworks’ offending was serious, and noted that a fine of $405,000 for this type of offending would have been appropriate.
“This prosecution and sentencing sends a clear message to companies that they must be held to account for their failings,” Ms Henry said.
- No fine was imposed.
- Reparation of $35,000 was ordered.
- Central Siteworks Ltd (in liquidation) was charged under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
- Being a PCBU, failed to ensure so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers, who worked for the PCBU and that failure exposed the workers to a risk of serious injury arising from forestry work.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1,500,000.