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Scaffolding Fail Gets Expensive Enforceable Undertaking from WorkSafe

Published 09 Feb 2020

A scaffolding failure from a Dunedin company saw a staff member of another contracting firm fall 3.5m and sustain injuries including concussion and bruising requiring a month off work.

This incident which occurred in June 2018 was investigated by WorkSafe and held both the principal contractor and the scaffold firm liable under the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). The certified scaffolder had left the worksite during the scaffold build and left the remaining construction to a spanner hand. The victim had subsequently leant on a rail when applying paint which immediately collapsed causing the victim to fall.

Both have agreed to an enforceable undertaking with WorkSafe with a total cost of $230,000 as part of the settlement.

An 'enforceable undertaking' is a voluntary agreement sometimes offered by WorkSafe to companies who breach (or are alleged to breach) the HSWA instead of a Court prosecution. It allows varied solutions to make amends to improve rather than simply reparations and fines alone. This is provided the failings under Act aren't deemed to be 'Reckless Conduct'.

The settlement in this case involved $40,000 in reparations to the victim, undertakings to training and the qualifications of staff, update health & safety management practices and make donations to the LifeMatters Suicide Prevention Trust.

Point of note here after the hefty fines is the inclusion of the principal contractor in the enforcement action taken. Even though a subcontractor was directly guilty of the shortcomings with the scaffolding, because the principal contractor has a duty of care for the worksite they too are culpable when it comes to the failing.