Two construction companies have been held accountable for a cavalier attitude toward keeping people safe when working at height.
The lack of planning and implementation of safety measures from both companies left a builder with life-changing injuries after they fell three metres from an unguarded second floor void on a construction site in September 2020, including a broken spine causing paralysis. The victim can no longer work as a builder as a result of their injuries and now requires a wheelchair to move.
The employer, Chunda Limited, and the property developer, JMK Homes Limited, were sentenced at the North Shore District Court in March with a final decision on fine amounts and reparations delivered on 28 April.
“The injuries the victim suffered were entirely preventable if controls, including edge protection had been in place to address the risks of a fall from height. They are inexpensive, easy to obtain, and easy to set up,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Danielle Henry.
“This was demonstrated in the immediate aftermath of the incident when edge protection was installed by workers using construction materials available on site. It was confirmed to WorkSafe this only happened after the incident. This is an indictment on the business and further underlines how avoidable this injury was.”
Chunda Limited had a worrying history around protecting its workers, and WorkSafe had taken a number of enforcement actions against the company since 2017 to influence the company to do better. This included seven prohibition notices, two sustained compliance letters, one directive letter, and two improvement notices.
“WorkSafe had a number of interactions with Chunda Limited, and they were on notice to up their game and keep workers safe. This included providing them with guidance and information related to risk management. This is why this incident is, in our eyes, unforgiveable and inexcusable given the track record,” says Danielle Henry.
Read WorkSafe’s guidance on working at height
- Chunda Limited and JMK Homes Limited were both sentenced at the North Shore District Court on 9 March 2023, with the final decision delivered on 28 April 2023.
- A fine of $258,918.92 was imposed and reparations of $61,464.20 were ordered for Chunda Limited and a fine of $175,000 was imposed for JMK Homes Limited, and reparations of $46,386.20 ordered.
- Both companies were charged under sections 36(1)(a) and 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 while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking, including while undertaking construction work did fail to comply with that duty, and that failure exposed workers to a risk of death or serious injury caused by falling from height.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.