WorkSafe New Zealand says an incident where a worker was seriously injured underlines the importance of training staff to keep them safe.

On 15 November 2021 a staff member with the Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) wildlife team was monitoring geese near the airport’s runways. The victim fired a cartridge from a pyrotechnic launcher toward the geese from the open driver’s side window of their stationary work vehicle. As a result of firing the launcher, the victim sustained serious harm, including laceration to their right-hand palm and loss of two of their fingertips on their right hand.

WorkSafe investigated the incident and found the victim did not receive adequate training on the safe use of the launcher and storage and handling of the cartridges. WorkSafe also found standard operating procedures relating to pyrotechnics were not as they should be.

“The way training was carried out was concerning. Training can be ‘watered down’ if it is simply passed on by person to person and not directly linked back to what the best practice states and the law requires.” says WorkSafe’s National Manager Investigations Catalijne Pille.

“This matter highlights that businesses and organisations need to pay adequate attention to the use of equipment or keeping across training regimes. Passing down knowledge without having check-ins can mean gaps in information or that training is not aligned with best practice.”

Since the incident the PCBU has engaged with an external business to carry out training and reports increased satisfaction with the new process.

AIAL has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with WorkSafe. This requires the PCBU to raise the health and safety standard in their workplace, wider industry and local community.

This Enforceable Undertaking includes:

  • Financial amends to the victim.
  • The implementation of a new suite of controls to greatly minimize risk to workers.
  • The development and implementation of a wildlife working group with key external stakeholders.
  • The development and implementation of a national wildlife hazards conference.
  • Funding to support organisations delivering mental health services in the South Auckland area.

Through this Enforceable Undertaking a Wildlife Working Group will be established with a focus on minimising wildlife risks. This will be supported by the creation of a National Annual Wildlife Hazards conference and a sponsorship programme, focusing on safety and well-being improvements.

“We all have a part to play in New Zealand’s health and safety system and Auckland International Airport Limited has taken up the opportunity to drive health and safety change within the industry.” 

WorkSafe will monitor compliance and progress of the terms of the Enforceable Undertaking which have been agreed to.

Statement from Chloe Surridge, Chief Operations Officer at Auckland Airport

Auckland Airport takes ownership for the events that led to one of our wildlife team members suffering a significant injury and we are deeply sorry for the impact this incident has had on the health and wellbeing of our team member and their family.

While birds are a threat to aircraft safety, it is extremely important any tactics used to scare them don’t risk causing anyone personal harm. That wasn’t the case on this occasion, and we have worked closely alongside WorkSafe in full support of its investigation. We have also made significant improvements to ensure the future health, safety and wellbeing of our wildlife rangers, including more specialised training, changes in operating procedures and improvements in record keeping.

The process of the enforceable undertaking has not only created positive change across our own training and procedures, but will deliver long-lasting outcomes for health, safety and wellbeing at other airports and in our wider community.

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