New Employees Should be Supervised

The near fatal injuries suffered by a welder on his first day at work illustrates the need for new employees to be supervised to ensure they can carry out their job safely, Occupational Safety and Health Service Auckland manager John Forrest says.

Welder Kevin Hodgetts’ first day with Auckland engineering workshop Stone Green Ltd (formerly Interclean Ltd) almost ended in disaster in May last year, when he fell 6.5 metres from the elevated tank of a tanker truck. He suffered severe head injuries, broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder, and continues to suffer disabilities from the fall.

He had been using a gas-cutting torch on the back of the truck when he lost his grip and fell to the workshop floor. He was not wearing a safety harness, and there was no elevated platform for him to work from.

OSH prosecuted the company for failing to ensure his safety at work. Stone Green was last week fined $5000 and ordered to pay reparation to Mr Hodgetts of $85,000 – the highest reparation order to date under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

Mr Forrest welcomed the level of reparation, saying the company completely failed in its obligations to its employee. “The risk of harm in these circumstances was very obvious, and the practicable steps the company could have taken to avoid the accident happening were straightforward, but still the accident happened.

“Far too many accidents are happening in New Zealand because of unsafe working practices like this.”

Mr Forrest said all employers needed to consider carefully how to keep their workers safe, irrespective of how long they’d been on the job.

“New employees, especially, should be supervised to make sure they’re working capably and safely. The ‘she’ll be right’ attitude demonstrated by many employers is killing and maiming our best workers, right at a time when we need skilled and competent tradespeople.”

OSH

 
 
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