The death of a teenager on a Bay of Plenty building site is yet another example of why the construction sector needs to up its game, WorkSafe New Zealand says.

Ethan Perham-Turner was killed when timber framing weighing 350 kilograms fell on him at a residential building site in Ōmokoroa in March 2022. The 19-year-old was just four months into an apprenticeship with Inspire Building Limited at the time.

[image] Ethan Perham-Turner
Ethan Perham-Turner

A WorkSafe investigation found the risk was heightened by the framing being manually installed around the site, and a temporary support brace being removed just prior to the fatal incident. When one frame knocked another, it fell on the teenage apprentice.

Inspire was providing building labour for the main contractor, Thorne Group. Both were charged for health and safety failures in relation to the death. The businesses should have consulted each other on the framing installation plan, and ensured a mechanical aid (such as a Hiab crane truck) was used.

“The death of a worker so young is an indictment on the construction sector. Ethan was new to the job, and new to the task of manoeuvring framing. He should have been provided with what he needed to be safe,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Paul West.

“The safest way would have been to mechanically lift the framing into place, given its weight. This can come at little to no extra cost. In this case, the supplier delivering the framing had a Hiab and could have lifted it into place if asked.

“The high number of deaths and injuries tell us construction is a very dangerous industry. WorkSafe has seen other similar incidents where workers handling large or heavy frames have been paralysed or killed. It is unacceptable that companies are not identifying the risks and providing workers with a safe workplace. We can only hope the death of a very young apprentice might motivate the step change required to improve the sector’s health and safety performance,” says Paul West.

Read our 2019 safety alert on installing frames


  • Inspire Building Limited and Thorne Group B.O.P Limited were sentenced at Tauranga District Court on 31 January 2024
  • Inspire Building was only fined $30,000 due to financial incapacity, and Thorne Group was fined $210,000. Reparations of $130,000 were ordered to be paid to Ethan Perham-Turner’s family, and $15,072 to his co-worker – a fellow apprentice.
  • Both entities were charged under sections 36(1)(a), s 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
    • Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU, including Ethan Thomas Perham-Turner, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, namely erecting prefabricated timber frames, did fail to comply with that duty, and that failure exposed workers to a risk of death or serious injury.
  • The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.

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