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Company fined after employee falls five metres

Media Release

1 March 2012

A roofing contractor who changed an agreed safety procedure resulting in one of his employees falling 5.4 metres onto concrete, has been fined $5,000 today.

Louis James Petersen, trading as LJ Roofing, was also ordered to pay $5,000 in reparation to the injured man, who Department of Labour Southern Manager Jean Martin described as extremely fortunate to only suffer a fractured elbow.

The Christchurch District Court heard that Peterson was replacing roofing iron on a commercial building in Sockburn in May 2011, and had agreed with the roofing contractor who hired him to remove and replace one 400mm-wide sheet at a time.

This gap was considered narrow enough to avoid falls but it was later decided that removing one sheet at a time wasn’t practical and increased it to three.  This left a 1.2m gap however the safety procedure was not amended. As three workers carried a replacement sheet over the gap by standing on purlins, one of them fell.

Ms Martin says that, having agreed safe practice, it was unacceptable for the employer to change how the task was carried out without further discussion.

“With no safety procedures in place, a gap of this width presented a huge danger to the workers,” says Ms Martin.

“This employee was not using a harness or safety line, and there was no fall protection.

“The defendant was aware of and trained in height safety measures and associated industry guidelines, but chose to do nothing to prevent a fall. This was negligence – and an illustration of the need for the three-year harm reduction campaign we launched last December to raise awareness about working safety at height.

“A fall of much less than this one can kill, so this worker is very fortunate, others have not been.

This is a timely reminder to all employers that they are responsible under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to ensure that their employees are kept safe and healthy at work.

The Department’s campaign focuses on ladder and roof safety throughout the construction sector.

“Builders, roofers, electrical workers, painters and decorators are the most likely to fall from height and get seriously hurt while they are working. Working safely isn’t rocket science but it does mean identifying hazards, doing something about them and continuing to monitor the situation,” says Ms Martin.

ENDS

Notes to Editor