Health and Safety

Posted on 5 May, 2015


Reason for increased focus on workplace health and safety is clear

No one goes to work expecting to get hurt, sick or killed. But in New Zealand, far too many people do.  Worksafe New Zealand reports on average, 75 people per year die on the job, 1 in 10 is harmed and 600-900 die from work-related diseases—all coming at a cost of $3.5 billion per year. And that’s doesn’t count the social and psychological costs on the friends, family, loved ones and co-workers of those people hurt on the job.

Consider flu immunisation for staff

As the Flu season is nearly on us WANZ employers should consider the benefits of subsidising their employees to have an influenza vaccination.  The biggest risk with influenza is that it is so infective and easily spread within any groups of people within a workplace sharing facilities.

A quick look at the cost to the business over the last two years from employees taking sick leave attributable to flu will give a guide to how much you potentially could save when you are paying out $150-250 a day in sick pay and losing productivity.  There is always some controversy over whether the vaccine is effective.  It is developed each year to work against the three most likely viruses as determined by world experts including New Zealand inputs.  The general statistics indicate a 75% effectiveness so that can be part of your cost / benefit equation.

Can you force employees to have a vaccination?  The answer is no and you cannot hold back on paying out for sick leave due to an employee who will not get vaccinated even if paid for by the employer.  However, as with any sick leave request payment can be denied if the employee fails to produce a medical certificate when requested or has no paid sick leave accrued.

Cell phone use while driving is hazard to other road users

After nearly being sideswiped by an erratic, lane straddling van driver texting while driving last week the editor of this newsletter was not surprised by a Herald on Sunday article last Sunday advising that Police statistics show that four times as many drivers are being issued with tickets for cell phone use (hand held talking, texting, checking emails) than five years ago when the legislation banning the practice was put into effect.  At safety meetings emphasise the danger of the practice (and not least the bad PR of your branded vehicles being badly driven).

Health & Safety Prosecutions Continue

Roofing issues again

In a familiar tale, a roofing company whose employee fell from a residential home’s roof has been fined $100,000, reduced to $46,000, for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that the employee was not exposed to the risk of falling from height.  Reparations were also ordered.

The employee slipped on the wet roof, and without fall protection, he broke his collarbone, right shoulder blade, right wrist and two ribs, causing a stay of 6 days in hospital.

The fine was influenced by my KLS Roofing’s offer of reparation and assistance in returning to work.  The employee refused the offers and the Court set reparation at $10,000.

The Court was of the view that the steps KLS could have taken to reduce the risk included: doing a hazard assessment and safety plan for when scaffolding had been dismantled, instructing employees to stop work until such plans had been completed, and choosing and enforcing an effective means of fall protection for workers onsite.

The company was used to doing work at height, and aware of the shortcomings.  It was also aware that the company could recover the cost of scaffolding from the house owner, so cost was not an issue.

Forklift problem

Kiwi Timbers was also fined $100,000, reduced to $45,000 for the same type of failure to protect employees from hazards, and causing death.  The Court confirmed reparation at $94,000.

The problem was a faulty handbrake, which led to the forklift that the employee was driving rolling backwards and hitting a pile of steel, which tipped the forklift over.  The forklift had no seatbelt or harness, and the employee fell out of the forklift, which landed on top of him.

The faulty handbrake had been reported, but not repaired when other faults were repaired shortly before.  The forklift’s maintenance plan was not documented.  Despite this, the Court noted that the company had an impeccable safety record.

Director sentenced to four months home detention / company fined $60,000

Arthur Britton, the Director of a house-moving company has been sentenced to four months home detention, and his company fined $60,000, after a house he was transporting brought down a power line. The power line was left live on the side of the road, killing six lambs, five ewes and two sheep dogs. A shepherd narrowly avoided being electrocuted in the incident.  Charges were bought under Electricity Act 1992, and Health and Safety in Employment Act.

 Machine guards are vital

A recent case highlights the risks of interfering with safety guards.  Commercial laundry company Alsco NZ has been fined $38,250 and been ordered to pay $7,500 in reparation after a worker had their hand crushed in the rollers of an unguarded folder machine.

Alsco’s production manager at its Nelson laundry suffered finger fractures, muscle and tendon damage and friction burns when his hand became trapped between two rollers in a Jensen Classic Folder Machine in March 2014. He had been attempting to clear a piece of tape that was attached to the rollers.

The machine’s guard had been removed and a ‘key interlock’, which would have prevented the folder’s use without the guard in place, had been overridden.

Asbestos danger A manager of an apartment renovation company, has been fined $40,000 after he failed to test a substance for asbestos. The manager should have taken all practicable steps to ensure that, when it was necessary to know whether a substance was asbestos or not, the substance was appropriately tested. From time to time on WANZ member installation sites asbestos may be present.  Installers should be aware of the potential risks and investigate the situation thoroughly before commencing work.