The use of safety gear and signage became a hot topic over the weekend. Holly Ryan, NZ Herald wrote an interesting piece: Company fined $108,500 after falling tree hits woman. She quickly followed this up with WorkSafe fine ‘will put company under’ says owner.
- Stumpmaster Ltd was cutting down a palm tree there was no exclusion area around the tree to warn the public.
- Cones had been placed in the area but were not two tree lengths away from the tree and there was no signage to warn the public.
- The company had suitable signage at head office, and extendable barriers and danger tape in its vehicle on site
- The victim suffered fractures and lacerations requiring hospitalisation for six days.
What did the Owner Say?
James Isaacs, who founded StumpMaster Limited in 2008, he said he was devastated that the mistake of one employee could put the company under.
“This business was my life. When I started it in my early 20s I had saved up a deposit for a house on the Shore but instead, put that money into my business in order to grow it.”
What did WorksafeNZ & The Courts Say: ‘No Excuses, Your Team Nearly killed someone”.
This incident was completely avoidable. WorkSafe’s deputy General Manager, Investigations and Specialist Services Simon Humphries said, “You are responsible for ensuring that other people are not put at risk by the work of your business. This includes members of the public who could be affected by a work activity”.
The company was convicted in the District Court:
Fines: $90,000 max fine not exceeding $1.5 million. HSAW 2015
What can you learn about this case and safety gear?
In my opinion, the signs at head office and in the truck that were not used demonstrate the company culture. Safety is no longer a ‘tick and flick’ operation. You need to have the right gear and make sure that it is used.
- Get a suitably qualified safety practitioner to assess your working activities and discuss what signage and barriers you need.
- The public and heavy machinery don’t mix, a robust traffic management system and properly contained walkway (cones & barriers) may be your only option.
- Asking your team what signage they need before they leave head office can save a trip back later.
- Check that your signs are readable, clean, reflective (if necessary) and properly secured before work begins.
- The only way to check that gear is being used is to get out on site and see what is happening. Yes, this means auditing the site.
Have a safe and productive week and don’t forget to check out your safety gear.