Company to pay $66,799.50 after employee shot by nail gun
VIP Frames & Trusses Limited has been ordered by the Court to pay $$66,799.50 after an employee was seriously injured when a nail shot from a nail gun hit him in the chest. The nail punctured his pericardium and lung, and narrowly missed his heart. The nail was subsequently removed in surgery.
VIP Frames & Trusses Limited was sentenced in the Christchurch District Court today after pleading guilty to two charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, for failing to take all practicable steps to keep an employee safe at work and failing to notify WorkSafe of another serious harm incident in 2013 where an employee fractured a thumb. They were ordered to pay $9,000 reparation to the victim, in addition to $6,000 already ordered by the Employment Relations Authority, a $46,962 fine in respect of breach of section 6 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, and a $10,837.50 fine for failing to notify.
The manufacturing company produces pre-fabricated steel and wooden building frames and trusses for the construction industry. The incident occurred on 29 January 2014 when two employees - one a contractor - were working with nail guns on opposite sides of a frame. This practice is called cross nailing. The contractor, who was still in training, failed to correctly line up his nail gun and misfired, hitting the injured worker in the chest with a nail.
The incident caused the injured worker significant emotional and physical harm, and financial stress. He could not return to work following the incident, and was told via text message that he was locked out of the workplace premise. He has also been verbally abused and ostracised by former work mates.
WorkSafe’s investigation found that while VIP Frames & Trusses Limited did have health and safety systems in place, there were a number of breaches. They failed to ensure that the standard operating procedure for nail guns was adequate, they failed to prohibit cross-nailing, and failed to ensure that the production line allowed operators enough time to check that no one was in the line of fire before compressing the trigger of a nail gun.
“Nail guns are an obvious hazard,” says Keith Stewart, WorkSafe Chief Inspector. “VIP Frames & Trusses Limited’s safety procedures should have ensured that employees knew never to point nail guns at each other and that they first checked it was safe before pulling a nail gun trigger.”
“They also should have ensured their training programme was followed, that trainees were properly supervised and assessed, and that their hazard register identified all known nail gun hazards.”